USGS Volcano Hazards Program Volcano Update


HVO update page and observatory web site


Activity Summary: Kilauea continued to erupt at two locations: At the summit, rockfalls disrupted the lava lake through yesterday afternoon and evening while weak DI inflation started at midnight. At Pu`u `O`o crater, lava flows covered the north portion of the crater floor. To the southeast of Pu`u `O`o, a lava flow was entering the ocean in multiple areas both inside and outside the National Park boundary while additional lava flows were active to the west on the coastal plain. Gas emissions remained elevated.

Recent Observations at Kilauea summit: The summit tiltmeter network recorded the switch to weak DI inflation at about midnight last night. The lava lake level dropped very slowly and, starting just after 4 pm, was disrupted repeatedly by rockfalls; the largest one occurred just before 7 pm where a piece of the Halema`uma`u crater floor fell into the lake and disrupted the lake's circulation for several hours. This morning, the lava lake surface is about 35 m (115 ft) below the Halema`uma`u Crater floor. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 600 tonnes/day on January 10, 2013; this value is a typical background emission rate between rise/fall events; new measurements must await the return of moderate trade winds. A very small amount of ash-sized tephra (mostly fresh spatter bits and Pele's hair) was carried out of the vent in the gas plume and deposited on nearby surfaces.

Seismic tremor levels were low with variations that typically accompany rise/fall lava lake events which stopped after the large rim collapse at 7 pm last night; low-frequency tremor amplitudes increased after midnight.Twelve earthquakes were strong enough to be located beneath Kilauea Volcano in the past 24 hours: 2 beneath the west caldera boundary, 3 south of the summit caldera, 4 within the upper east rift zone, and 3 on south flank faults. The network of GPS receivers at the summit recorded short-term extension and contraction mimicking tilt but little long-term change over the past month.

Background: The summit lava lake is deep within an ~160 m (520 ft) diameter cylindrical vent with nearly vertical sides inset within the east wall and floor of Halema`uma`u Crater. Its level has varied from about 25 m to more than 200 m (out of sight) below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater. The vent has been mostly active since opening with a small explosive event on March 19, 2008. The surface level of the lava lake has remained mostly below the inner ledge (~31 m or 100 ft below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater on October 29, 2012) and has risen above and flooded the ledge in October, 2012, and January, 2013. The lake level responds to summit tilt changes with the lake receding during deflation and rising during inflation.

Recent Observations at the middle east rift zone vents: Lava activity continued on the coastal plain. An approximately 1 km-wide (0.6 mi wide) lava flow remained active on the coastal plain with minimal surface activity straddling the easternmost boundary of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Par at the coast and entering the ocean at several locations, both inside and outside Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. To the west, additional flows were active a short distance from the base of the pali; while the western flows are not advancing far beyond the base of the pali, newer breakouts continued to issue from the tube on the pali.

HAZARD ALERT: Lava entering the ocean builds lava deltas. The lava delta and adjacent areas are some of the most hazardous areas on the flow field. Frequent delta/bench collapses give little warning, can produce explosions capable of throwing both dense and molten rocks hundreds of meters (yards) in all directions (inland as well as out to sea), and can produce damaging local waves. The steam plume produced by lava entering the ocean contains fine lava fragments and an assortment of acid droplets that can be harmful to your health. The rapidly changing conditions near the ocean entry have been responsible for many injuries and a few deaths.

The tiltmeter on the north flank of Pu`u `O`o cone recorded minor fluctuations that didn't readily correspond to the weak DI tilt event recorded at the summit. Lava lake levels at Pu`u `O`o remained high and the crater floor was covered with lava flows mostly from the north spatter cone - consistent with the typical lack of a Pu`u `O`o response to weak summit DI events over the past several months. Seismic tremor levels near Pu`u `O`o remained low. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 250 tonnes/day on January 7, 2013, from all east rift zone sources. The GPS receivers located on either side of the crater recorded short-term extension and contraction mimicking tilt but little long-term change over the past 6 weeks.

Background: The eruption in Kilauea's middle east rift zone started with a fissure eruption on January 3, 1983, and continued with few interruptions at Pu`u `O`o Cone, or temporarily from vents within a few kilometers to the east or west. A fissure eruption on the upper east flank of Pu`u `O`o Cone on Sept. 21, 2011, drained the lava lakes and fed a lava flow that advanced southeast through the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision to the ocean within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park in early December 2011. Since late December 2011, the flows have remained intermittently active on the pali and the coastal plain and finally re-entered the ocean starting on November 24, 2012. In general, activity waxes with inflation and wanes with deflation.

Hazard Summary: East rift vents and flow field - near-vent areas could erupt or collapse without warning with spatter and/or ash being wafted within the gas plume; potentially-lethal concentrations of sulfur dioxide gas may be present within 1 km downwind of vent areas. All recently active lava flows are within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, adjacent State land managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and private property; the lava flows do not pose a hazard to any structures not already within the County-declared mandatory evacuation zone. Lava deltas, which can collapse into the ocean without warning, are extremely hazardous and should be avoided (see HAZARD ALERT above). Kilauea Crater - ash and Pele's hair can be carried several kilometers downwind; potentially-lethal concentrations of sulfur dioxide can be present within 1 km downwind.

Viewing Summary: East rift zone flow field - Most of the flow field is within the closed-access Kahauale'a Natural Area Reserve (NAR) and the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and can only be viewed from the air. A small part of the western flow field near the coast in within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park (see below for access info). Under favorable weather conditions, active flows-when present-can be seen from the County Viewing Area at Kalapana (Lava hotline 961-8093). Pu`u `O`o Cone and Kilauea Crater - these areas are within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park; Park access and viewing information can be found at http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/lava2.htm.

Update in Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format