Volcano Update from Archive

Saturday, October 13, 2012 7:39 AM HST (Saturday, October 13, 2012 17:39 UTC)

This report on the status of Kilauea volcanic activity, in addition to maps, photos, and Webcam images (available at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php), was prepared by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO). Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park status can be found at http://www.nps.gov/havo/ or 985-6000. All times are Hawai`i Standard Time.

19°25'16" N 155°17'13" W, Summit Elevation 4091 ft (1247 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

Activity Summary: Slow inflation continued, and the summit lava lake rose slightly. At Pu`u `O`o, the lava lake in the northeast pit was active, and spots glowed in the southern pit. A series of lava flows was erupted overnight from the spatter cone at the west edge of the filled northern pit. Lava flows southeast of Pu`u `O`o continued to pool on the coastal plain at the base of the pali. Seismic tremor levels were low. Gas emissions were elevated.

Recent Observations at Kilauea summit: The summit slowly inflated, continuing the inflationary trend that started on October 1. The base level of the lava lake rose slightly in response, flooding the ledge along its southern side a couple of times overnight. There were no rise and fall cycles. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 600 tonnes/day on October 12, 2012. Although not measured today, very small amounts of ash-sized tephra (fresh spatter bits and Pele's hair) were probably carried out of the vent in the gas plume and deposited on nearby surfaces.

Seismic tremor levels were relatively steady. The GPS receiver network recorded weak extension across the caldera since early August. Nine earthquakes were strong enough to be located beneath Kilauea: 5 within the upper east rift zone, 3 on south flank faults, and 1 west of the summit.

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 fluctuates from about 50 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. Most recently, the surface level of the lava lake has remained below an inner ledge (~50 m or 165 ft below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater on October 9, 2012), sometimes rising to flood the ledge. 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: Surface flows continued to accumulate close to the base of the pali within the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision, with one branch extending seaward across the coastal plain. This branch was 1.7 km (~1 mile) from the shoreline when mapped on October 10, and appears to have not made much progress since, based on webcam views. Minor flow activity also continues on the pali.

At Pu`u `O`o, the lava lake in the northeastern pit on the crater floor has risen a few meters since October 1, and rose again very slightly overnight. Incandescence was seen sporadically from two points in the southern pit. Just after 7:00 PM last night, lava erupted from the incandescence spatter cone at the west edge of the filled northern pit for about 40 minutes. The flow filled a low depression on the north side of the crater floor and extended almost to the northeast pit and lava lake. The tiltmeter on the north flank of Pu`u `O`o cone, which recorded an overall inflationary trend, abruptly deflated a few tenths of a microradian during the discharge of lava. There were a few additional outpourings from the spatter cone overnight, spreading the flow across the crater floor. This behavior continues this morning, with another gush of lava occurring as this is written.

Seismic tremor levels near Pu`u `O`o were low. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 300 tonnes/day on October 12, 2012, from all east rift zone sources.

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. Since late December, the flows have remained intermittently active on the pali and the coastal plain but have not entered the ocean. 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 within the Royal Gardens subdivision; the lava flows do not pose a hazard to any structures not already within the County-declared mandatory evacuation zone. 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 - The new breakout lava flows were within the closed-access Kahauale'a Natural Area Reserve (NAR) and the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and can only be viewed from the air. Under favorable weather conditions, glow from these flows may be reflected in clouds which can be seen from the County Viewing Area at Kalapana (Lava hotline 961-8093). Pu`u `O`o Cone, the strip of coastal plain nearest the ocean, 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.

Additional Information:

For a definition of volcano alert levels and aviation color codes: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/activity/alertsystem/index.php

Maps, photos, Webcam views, and other information about Kilauea Volcano are available at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/activity/kilaueastatus.php. A daily update summary is available by phone at (808) 967-8862.

A map with details of earthquakes located within the past two weeks can be found at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/seismic/volcweb/earthquakes/

HVO Contact Information:


Definitions of Terms Used:

DI tilt event: DI is an abbreviation for 'deflation-inflation' and describes a geophysical event of uncertain volcanic significance. DI events are recorded by tiltmeters at Kilauea summit as an abrupt deflation of up to a few microradians in magnitude lasting several hours (weak DI events) to 2-3 days (strong DI events) followed by an abrupt inflation of approximately equal magnitude. The tilt events are usually accompanied by an increase in summit tremor during the deflation phase. A careful analysis of these events suggests that they may be related to changes in magma supply to a storage reservoir at less than 1 km depth, just east of Halema`uma`u crater. Usually, though not always, these changes propagate through the magma conduit from the summit to the east rift eruption site, as many of the DI events at Kilauea summit are also recorded at a tiltmeter at Pu`u `O`o delayed by several hours. DI events often correlate with lava pulses and/or pauses in the eruption at the Pu`u `O`o/Peace Day vents.

fill-and-drain, rise/fall cycles or high lava stands: one of the cyclical behaviors exhibited by the summit lava lake. A cycle starts with a rise in lava level, a decrease in summit tremor amplitude, and a small decrease in tilt. After a period of minutes to hours, the lava will abruptly drain back to its previous level, seismic tremor amplitude will increase for a short time (a seismic tremor burst), and summit tilt will return to its previous level. Although not measured continuously, spot checks of gas emissions demonstrate that far less gas is released during the high lava stand than during its draining phase suggesting that, during the high lava stand, lava is puffed up with gas trapped by crusts on the lava surface; the gas plume will also get thin and wispy during these cycles returning to more robustness afterward.

perched lava lake: a lava lake within a rim that is progressively built up by overflows of lava that have cooled and solidified. The most recent example of a perched lava lake is currently active within Pu`u `O`o maintaining a rim standing several meters (yards) above the crater floor. In many ways, a perched lava lake resembles an above-ground swimming pool. Overflows from the pond add layers to the surrounding crater floor building it higher; the overflows also build up the perched lake rim, continually keeping the lake rim raised above the floor.

mauka, makai: Hawaiian terms for directions relative to the coast - makai or ma kai (toward the coast) and mauka or ma uka (toward the highlands or away from the coast).

pali: Hawaiian term for cliff or precipice.

composite seismic events: is a seismic signal with multiple distinct phases that has been recorded frequently at HVO from the Halema`uma`u Overlook vent area since its explosive opening in March, 2008. For the composite events recorded at Halema`uma`u, we typically see an initial high frequency vibration lasting for a few seconds that have been correlated with rockfalls. This is followed by about 30 seconds of a long-period (LP) oscillation with an approximately 2- to 3-second period. The final phase of the signal is several minutes of a very-long-period (VLP) oscillation with an approximately 25- to 30-second period. The LP signals are interpreted to be from the uppermost portion of the conduit and VLP signals are interpreted to be fluid passing through a deep constriction in the conduit through which lava rises to the pond surface we see in the webcam.

Halema`uma`u Overlook vent: has been difficult to describe concisely. The vent is actually a pit, or crater, in the floor of the larger Halema`uma`u Crater in the floor of the larger Kilauea caldera or crater - a crater within a crater within a crater. It is easiest to describe as a pit inset within the floor of a crater within a caldera. The pit is about 140 m (460 ft) in diameter at the Halema`uma`u Crater floor, is about 50 m in diameter at the pit floor, and is about 200 m (660 ft) deep. As of November, 2009, a lava pond surface has been visible in a hole in the floor of this pit.

glow: light from an unseen source; indirect light.

incandescence: the production of visible light from a hot surface. The term also refers to the light emitted from a hot surface. The color of the light is related to surface temperature. Some surfaces can display dull red incandescence at temperatures as low as 430 degrees Centigrade (806 degrees Fahrenheit). By contrast, molten lava displays bright orange to orange-yellow light from surfaces that are hotter than 900 degrees C (1,650 degrees F).

CD: Hawai`i County Civil Defense

tonne: metric unit equal to 1,000 kilograms, 2,204.6 lbs, or 1.1 English tons.

tephra: all material deposited by fallout from an eruption-related plume, regardless of size.

ash: tephra less than 2 mm (5/64 inches) in size.

microradian: a measure of angle equivalent to 0.000057 degrees.

More definitions with photos can be found at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/images/pglossary/index.php.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is one of five volcano observatories within the U.S. Geological Survey and is responsible for monitoring volcanoes and earthquakes in Hawai`i.