USGS Volcano Hazards Program Volcano Update


HVO update page and observatory web site


Activity Summary: Eruption continues with no significant changes. Summit instruments recorded very little inflation and the lava lake fluctuated with a brief and temporary upwelling just after midnight. At the middle east rift zone, the Kahauale`a 2 lava flow displayed multiple vigorous breakouts burning small patches of forest north of Pu`u `O`o. Southeast of Pu`u `O`o, scattered active breakouts were seen on the coastal plain while a small amount of lava continued through the main tube until reaching the ocean and producing a much weaker plume yesterday on the east side of the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park boundary. Gas emissions remained elevated.

Recent Observations at Kilauea summit: Summit tiltmeters recorded neither inflationary nor deflationary tilt; the UWE tiltmeter started recording an instrumental glitch at about 4 am this morning that should be disregarded. The circulating lava lake fluctuations through midnight last night with an almost 4-5 m (13-16 ft) rise between 1 and 2:30 am this morning followed by a slower drop as of this posting; this rise of the lake coincided with a particularly strong seismic burst and an abrupt increase in gas emissions at the end of a seismic tremor dropout period. The most recent sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 450 t/d on August 16, 2013 - a lower value representing a period in which spattering activity and gas release from the lava lake were reduced; however, 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) was carried out of the vent by the plume and deposited onto nearby surfaces.

Seismic tremor levels remained slightly elevated with multiple dropouts (also called rise/fall events). Eighteen earthquakes were strong enough to be located beneath Kilauea Volcano in the past 24 hours: 1 north of the summit caldera, 7 beneath the summit caldera, 4 within the upper east rift zone, and 6 on south flank faults. GPS receivers on opposite sides of the summit caldera recorded changes that mimicked the summit tilt with slowing extension while summit tiltmeters record slowing inflationary tilt.

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 generally 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 minor fluctuations over very weak inflationary tilt. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 300 tonnes/day on August 16, 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 continued to record weak extension across Pu`u `O`o cone. The Pu`u `O`o vent fed two lava flows - the Kahauale`a 2 flow to the north and the Peace Day flow to the southeast with the majority of lava feeding the Kahauale`a 2 flow according to HVO geologists on an overflight yesterday.

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. PNcam views of the Kahauale`a 2 flow showed continuing vigorous activity from scattered breakouts on the flow and burning along the forest line north of Pu`u `O`o.

Southeast of Pu`u `O`o, the Peace Day flow appeared as small scattered breakouts on the coastal-plain while the main lava tube continued to transport lava that trickled 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; the entry plume was much weaker and very difficult to see in the R2cam.

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