Volcano Update from Archive

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 7:53 AM HST (Tuesday, November 12, 2013 17:53 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). 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: Eruption at two locations continued with no significant changes. Summit instruments recorded minor fluctuations, and the possible start of another DI tilt event, and the lava lake level varied and started to drop early this morning. At the middle east rift zone, the Kahauale`a 2 lava flow was active as small scattered breakouts burning forest northeast of Pu`u `O`o; small flows were active on the upper southeast flank of Pu`u `O`o cone. Gas emissions remained elevated.

Recent Observations at Kilauea summit: Summit tiltmeters recorded minor fluctuations and a possible start of DI deflationary tilt at 4 am this morning. The lava lake level also varied slightly and was a measured 50 m (164 ft) below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater this morning before dropping farther with deflationary tilt. Gas emissions continued to be elevated: the most recent sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 700 t/d on October 28, 2013 - the higher value represents a period in which spattering activity and gas release from the lava lake were active; however, these values are minimums 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 from the spattering sinks) was carried out of the vent with the gas and deposited onto nearby surfaces.

Seismic tremor fluctuated with no dropouts after 3 pm yesterday. Twenty-one earthquakes were strong enough to be located beneath Kilauea Volcano in the past 24 hours: 8 beneath the summit area, 4 beneath the upper east rift zone area, 1 within the middle east rift zone, and 8 scattered on south flank faults (including 3 very deep quakes beneath Nali`ikakani Point). GPS receivers spanning the summit caldera recorded line length changes that mimicked the short-term trends in tilt (DI tilt events) over the past two weeks; the long-term, cross-caldera measurements indicate continued extension at a rate averaging 10 cm/yr (4 in/yr) since March, 2010.

Background: The summit lava lake is within a nearly-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 about 0.5 microradians of deflation. The most recent (preliminary) sulfur dioxide emission rate measurement was 300 tonnes/day on October 29, 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 on the north rim and south flank of Pu`u `O`o cone recorded minor fluctuations over weak extension (about 1 cm over the past two months). The Pu`u `O`o vent fed only the Kahauale`a 2 flow to the north; after being active for more than two years and producing some memorable ocean entries, the Peace Day flow, to the southeast of Pu`u `O`o, was declared dead by HVO geologists on 11/07.

Spatter cones on the north and south portion of the Pu`u `O`o crater floor displayed persistent glow while the northeast spatter cone continued to feed the Kahauale`a 2 lava flow extending 6.4 km (4 mi) to the north (mapped on 11/07); PEcam showed continued lava flow activity high on the southeast flank of Pu`u `O`o cone that could possibly be overflows from the south sides of the northeast spatter cones that are out of view of the PTcam or POcam. PNcam, ETcam, and R3cam (working intermittently) views showed continued lava activity as small scattered breakouts near the tip of the northeastern-most branch of the Kahauale`a 2 flow (see map), and several spots of burning forest.

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. The flows stalled and re-entered the ocean starting on November 24, 2012 until activity started to decline and the ocean entry ceased in August 20, 2013; the flow was dead by early November, 2013. 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 (informally called Kahauale`a 2) 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. 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), the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve (DLNR, OHA), and the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and can only be viewed from the air. Under favorable weather conditions, active flows-when present-can be seen from the County Viewing Area at Kalapana (Lava hotline 961-8093) and from the end of the Chain of Craters Road within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. 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.

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.

rise/fall events: one of the episodic behaviors exhibited by the summit lava lake starting in 2009. An event starts with a rise in lava level, a decrease in high-frequency summit tremor amplitude, a decrease or total stoppage of spattering, and a small decrease in tilt. After a period of minutes to hours, the lava will abruptly drain back to its previous level amidst resumed vigorous spattering, seismic tremor amplitude will increase for a short time (a seismic tremor burst) before resuming background levels, and summit tilt will return to its previous level. Gas emissions decrease significantly during the high lava stand (the plume gets wispy), and resume during its draining phase. Taken together, the geophysical characteristics suggest that, during the high lava stand, lava is puffed up with gas trapped under the lava lake crust.

seismic tremor dropout: these behaviors are identical to rise/fall events except that the lava lake level doesn't rise or fall significantly. High-frequency seismic tremor, gas emissions, and spattering decrease abruptly during a dropout. A dropout can end with a burst of seismic tremor and a significant pulse of gas emissions.

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 which is, in turn, 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 160 m (525 ft) in diameter at the Halema`uma`u Crater floor, is about 50 m in diameter at a depth of 200 m (660 ft) below the Halema`uma`u Crater floor. From November, 2009, to now, a lava pond surface has been visible in 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 0.984 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.