USGS Volcano Hazards Program Volcano Update


HVO update page and observatory web site


Activity Summary: Eruption continues with no significant changes. Summit tiltmeters recorded DI inflationary tilt and the lava lake level rose with fluctuations. At the middle east rift zone, the Kahauale`a 2 lava displayed little activity but was still burning small bits of forest to the north. Southeast of Pu`u `O`o, the Peace Day flow had a fewer active breakouts mid-way across the coastal plain. Most of the flow remained within its lava tube until reaching the ocean on the east side of the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park boundary. Gas emissions remained elevated.

Recent Observations at Kilauea summit: Summit tiltmeters recorded the switch to DI inflationary tilt at 4 pm yesterday. The circulating lava lake level remained stable, started to rise with tilt yesterday afternoon, and dropped abruptly at about 3 am this morning as vigorous spattering around its edges started; as of this posting, the lava level is again rising slowly and the spattering is decreasing to background levels. The most recent sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 500 t/d on July 27, 2013 - low because it was obtained during a period in which spattering and gas release from the lava lake were reduced; this value is a minimum because the data were acquired close to the vent where the plume is most dense and challenging to fully characterize. A very small amount of ash-sized tephra (mostly fresh spatter bits and Pele's hair) carried out of the vent by the plume, and deposited onto nearby surfaces.

Seismic tremor levels increased dramatically after midnight along with spattering at the edges of the lava lake. Twelve earthquakes were strong enough to be located beneath Kilauea Volcano in the past 24 hours: 9 beneath the summit caldera extending a short distance to the south and 3 on south flank faults. GPS receivers on opposite edges of the summit caldera recorded contraction and extension that mimics the summit deflationary and inflationary tilt, respectively, over a weak contraction trend.

Background: The summit lava lake is within a cylindrical vent cavity with a diameter of ~160 m (520 ft) and 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 before receding to greater depths. 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: The tiltmeter at Pu`u `O`o cone recorded the switch to DI inflationary tilt almost 2 hours after summit tilt made the same switch. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 300 tonnes/day on July 25, 2013, from all east rift zone sources; these values have ranged between 150 and 450 t/d in 2013 and are made at a greater distance from the sources where the plume is more easily characterized. GPS receivers across Pu`u `O`o cone recorded no significant extension or contraction since early June.

Spatter cones on the north and south portion of the crater floor of Pu`u `O`o showed continued incandescence while the northeast spatter cone continued to feed the Kahauale`a 2 lava flow which now extends 3.2 km (2 mi) to the northeast of Pu`u `O`o along the northwest boundary of the Kahauale`a flow and about 2 km (1.2 mi) to the northwest burning forest in two locations at the north edge of the 1983-1986 `a`a flows from Pu`u `O`o. WEbcam views of the Kahauale`a flow were largely obscured by fog over the past 24 hours but the handful of clear views yesterday showed little activity possibly due to the ongoing DI deflation.

Southeast of Pu`u `O`o, the Peace Day flow hosted a decreased number of scattered breakouts midway across the coastal plain near the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park boundary. Most of the Peace Day lava, however, remained in older lava tubes that emptied into the ocean at the Kupapa`u entry area producing a weak, wispy gas plume just east, and outside of, the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park boundary.

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.

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 (Peace Day 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. The Kahauale`a flow, which started from the spatter cone/lava lake at the northeast edge of the Pu`u `O`o crater floor in mid-January, 2013, was dead by late April, but a new flow (Kahauale`a II) became active in the same general area in early May . 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