Quick Summary of 2018 Kilauea Eruption

Haven’t been following Kilauea eruption news?  This June 14 video from the National Park Service will bring you up to speed.

The rest of this blog is a daily digest of recent photos, videos, information and news about what’s happening at Kilauea Volcano.

(Recommended post: “Changes to Halema’uma’u,” showing you before-and-after images of Kilauea’s summit crater and its recent collapse.)

June 24: Aviation Color Code Dropped to Orange

Today’s Eruption Summary

The new news today is that HVO/USGS downgraded Kilauea’s FAA warning level:

“Since late May, these collapse/explosion events have rarely produced significant ash plumes rising more than 10,000 feet above sea level where they can pose a significant hazard to aviation. For this reason, HVO is reducing the aviation color code from RED to ORANGE.”

Full text of this HVO Volcanic Activity Notice | Guide to Codes

June 24, 2018. USGS early morning overflight of Fissure 8. (Full-sized)

I almost feel like the recent code downgrades for Kilauea and Mauna Loa were a tacit rebuttal of the scaremongers trying to conjure an island-wide catastrophe out of hot air. But I suppose I’m being as irrational as they are. There were specific numbers and criteria for both these status changes.

Down at the LERZ, status quo continues. Fissure 8’s lava fountains are vigorous but seldom peep over the cone they’ve built (now 180′). Minor overflows spill out near the head of the lava river without going far. The ocean entry is concentrated mostly at the main lava channel channel near the south end of the lava delta, but some fans out along a 1km stretch.

USGS: “The spatter cone at fissure 8 is now about 55 m (180 ft) tall. Lava fountains rise only occasionally above that point, sending a shower of tephra (cooled lava fragments) over the rim.” (Full-sized)

Today’s collapse explosion went off at 4:12pm, M5.3, partly hidden on the livestream by a dust cloud from rockfalls 4 minutes earlier. Just as yesterday, I noticed the “collapse explosion” started with a visible camera shake, unlike earlier rockfalls that made me think, “Waaaaait— was that it?” The explosion itself didn’t send up much dust past the rim of Halema’uma’u. About a minute later, dust from caldera wall rockfalls (I think?) blew past.

Below: Rockfalls, dust cloud, then I fast forwarded to the collapse explosion.

Today’s USGS Kilauea update gave additional details for yesterday’s explosion which probably apply to today’s as well: “Seismicity dropped abruptly from a high of 25-30 earthquakes per hour (many in the magnitude 2-3 range) prior to the collapse explosion down to 10 or less earthquakes per hour afterwards. Within 4 hours seismicity began to creep up again averaging about 25 earthquakes per hour by daybreak (June 24)” i.e. about 14 hours later.

Continue reading June 24: Aviation Color Code Dropped to Orange

June 23: Pele’s Latest Trick – Lava Boats (Lavabergs)

Today’s Eruption Summary

Fissure 8 just keeps on going, as if it’s settling in for a Pu’u O’o eruption rather than a 1955/1960 eruption.  Once again, there’s minor overflows upriver that don’t go anywhere. The ocean entry is mostly via the channel on the south side of the lava delta, but there’s also trickles along a kilometer-wide stretch of shore. Fissure 22 showed incandescence but no lava during the USGS morning overflight.

The USGS was skimpy on images today but gave us a treat: a timelapse of what they call “lava boats.”

Here’s their explanation: “Geologists captured this time-lapse video of the perched lava channel issuing from fissure 8 on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone. Rafts of accreted lava move down stream and look like boats moving down a river. These are termed lava balls or lava boats and form when portions of the fissure 8 cone or levees break away and are rafted down stream. As they move along in the channel, additional lava can cool to their surface to form accretionary lava balls.”

After lots of minor earthquakes and rockfalls that sent up small plumes of dust, the daily summit “collapse explosion” occurred at 4:34pm. It sent up a 2000-foot plume, once again equivalent to 5.3 earthquake. Again, I couldn’t resist a video capture:

The runup to today’s explosion was impressive. There was one cascade of dust and rubble all the way around the walls that I would’ve taken for the day’s explosive event, except that there was no camera shake beforehand. Doubtless it was one of these:

There’s not much news today, so let’s hitch a ride with the Hawaii County Fire Department and follow the lava river to the ocean. But first….

Continue reading June 23: Pele’s Latest Trick – Lava Boats (Lavabergs)

June 13-22: Kilauea Webcam Timelapses

Hawaii 24/7 puts out weekly timelapse videos collecting all the screencaps from the USGS/HVO webcams.

Lower East Rift Zone (Fissure 8)

Past timelapses: May 5-10 |  May 10-17| May 17-24May 24-31| Jun 1-7Jun 7-14

Wide Angle HVO Observation Tower

Past timelapses: May 10-17| May 17-24May 24-31| Jun 1-7| Jun 7-14

Kilauea Caldera (Halema’uma’u Panorama)

Past timelapses: (older) |  Mar 29-Apr 5 |  Apr 5-12Apr 12-19 |  Apr 19-26 |  Apr 26-May 6  | Apr 26-May 3May 3-10May 10-17May 17-24| May 24-31Jun 1-7 | Jun 7-14

Halema’uma’u Overlook Vent (former!)

Past timelapses:  (older) |  Mar 29-Apr 5Apr 5-12 |  Apr 12-19Apr 17-26Apr 26-May 6 | Apr 26-May 3May 3-10May 10-17May 17-24May 24-31 | Jun 1-7 | Jun 7-14

And here’s a search for Pu’u O’o webcam timelapses on this channel. (Why, Google, don’t you let us sort them in order?!)

June 12: Steve Brantley (USGS) Weekly Talk on Eruption

I didn’t realize I’d missed one of Steve Brantley’s excellent 10-minute slideshow presentations at the weekly Puna Community Meetings. This one took place on Tuesday, June 12 at Pahoa High School.

I learn something from every one of these talks, which sum up Kilauea eruption activity of the past week in a way that’s easy for the general public to understand without talking down to them.

Video of meeting is archived here. Steve’s presentation starts at timestamp 42:10. Where possible, I’ll be including images in my transcript which match his slides.

(Steve Brantley is a USGS geologist, deputy-scientist-in-charge of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.)


Hello everybody. Thank you for coming out again and thank you for your perseverance. I’ll show a couple slides of what’s been happening down in this part of the neighborhood and end with some slides of the summit area, which continues to change very dramatically.

Cutaway Diagram of Kilauea Volcano, adapted from USGS Characteristics of Hawaiian Volcanoes. (I’ve adjusted text and drawn arrow to match Steve Brantley’s slide in his presentations.)

So this is  the overview slide I’ve showed for the past few times. It gives you the overall picture. It’s an image, cartoon, from the summit area all the way out to the eastern tip of the island. The summit area here [under “Kilauea Caldera” label], eastern tip [down by “Kapoho Crater”], with a cross section showing you the general picture of the magma reservoir system from the summit of the volcano down through the East Rift Zone and into the Lower East Rift Zone.

Continue reading June 12: Steve Brantley (USGS) Weekly Talk on Eruption

June 22: Four Weeks of Changes at Kilauea Summit

Today’s Eruption Summary
USGS: ” Lava continues to erupt at a high rate from Fissure 8 and flow within the established channel to the ocean. No channel overflows were observed during this morning’s overflight. The fountains have built a horseshoe-shaped cone as lava fragments are intermittently hurled onto and over the growing rim. Lava exiting the cone forms a series of standing waves in the uppermost section of the channel.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 8 continues as usual, sending its lava river down to the ocean at Kapoho, with a “dominant ocean entry on the south edge of the flow front…producing a large laze plume.” Minor, brief overflows upstream aren’t traveling past previous lava flows. Fissure 6 is inactive; 16 incandescent; 22 woke up and was fountaining weakly during  the USGS morning overflight.

USGS: “Halema’uma’u crater at 8:30 a.m., view is toward the south. Several benches are clearly visible within the crater. The benches are sections of the former crater rim and adjacent Kīlauea caldera floor that have incrementally dropped or slumped into the crater as the summit area has subsided since early May.” (Full-sized)

Seismicity at the summit was “elevated overnight” according to today’s only HVO status update at 8:45 am. There appeared to be a lot of rockfalls/isolated slippages on the livestream today, especially on the left rim, but the really-truly “collapse explosion” (as USGS is now calling them) occurred at 6:52pm, 5.3 energy equivalent, 500 foot ash plume.

I spent this afternoon putting together a gif of the last 28 days of HVO wide angle Kilauea images, using screencaps I’ve taken supplemented with screengrabs from the same webcam archived by Hawaii247:

Halema’uma’u Crater, May 24-June 22. Animation of screencaps from USGS/HVO Kilauea Summit wide-angle webcam. (Full-sized)


In today’s digest:
  • Video capture of today’s summit explosion (warning: dark)
  • USGS Questions and answers
  • crisp LERZ photos/videos from HCFD
  • Local news stations turning from lava to recovery
  • Double dose of Mick Kalber overflight vids
  • Usual striking images from great photographers

In case you missed it:
Transcriptions of June 19 Steve Brantley Presentation at Puna Community MeetingJune 21 Conference Call

Continue reading June 22: Four Weeks of Changes at Kilauea Summit

June 21: USGS Media Conference Call

Here’s my transcription of the June 21, 11AM USGS media conference call.

  • Host: Leslie Gordon, USGS Public Affairs
  • Mike Zoeller, UHI Geologist
  • Matthew Foster, NWS meteorologist
USGS: “The USGS UAS (unoccupied aircraft system) team took this photograph of Halema‘uma‘u Crater from the Kīlauea Overlook on this morning. They are preparing for a flight to map further subsidence at the summit.” (Full-sized)

Update: Status quo at Fissure 8, LERZ, Summit. New “tidbit”: front of lava is sitting on ocean floor that was 60 meters deep. Also, using term “collapse explosion” for daily explosions, because not 100% clear whether explosion triggers collapse or vice versa. Tradewinds and showers through weekend.

Questions & answers: 

  1. Q: Possibility of new fissures opening, or if not, why not? Has seismicity in LERZ decreased? A: Not ruling it out, but magma has found a good conduit to Fissure 8, seems stable. Seismicity in LERZ “pretty quiet.”
  2. Q: Trump administration tightening rules on USGS speaking to reporters; will that impact our communications? 

Leslie Gordon, USGS Public Affairs: That will not affect what we’re doing here at Kilauea. I think the department realizes that this is an urgent situation. We have people’s livelihoods endangered. People have lost their homes and businesses. And so we— it will not affect what we’re doing here regarding Kilauea Volcano.

3. Q: Do you think it’s safe local residents to view lava if they’re outside mandatory evacuation zone?  A: Not our call. It’s up to Hawaii County.
4. Q: What’s process for naming fissure 8? A: Hawaiian elders, community, Board on Geographic Names decide when and what to call places in Hawaii.
5. Q: Will delta collapse? How far out? A: Can’t rule out collapse, but it’s on fairly stable slope so far; 100-200 meters from where it is now the slope steepens. [Didn’t say what would happen there, but I think implication is that it will be less stable and more collapse-prone.]

Continue reading June 21: USGS Media Conference Call

June 21: Mauna Loa Green, Kilauea Red

Today’s Eruption Summary

The LERZ eruption continues as it has for several weeks now, which is actually remarkable. Fissure 8 has added bulk (width) but not much height to its cone. Fissure 6 was active again last night with a sluggish little flow, while 16/18 and 22 showed early-morning incandescence.

USGS: Fissure 8 continues building a tephra cone and producing a robust channelized lava flow on Kīlauea Volcano’s Lower East Rift Zone.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 8’s lava flow cruises along at 17mph in an elevated channel 50-60 feet high, slowing gradually to 2mph by the time it rounds the bend at Kapoho Crater. Its 8 mile journey concludes in the ocean and a burst of laze and fresh black sand, just a little further out each day. The lava delta has grown to 380 acres.

Halema’uma’u Crater at Kilauea’s summit continues to expand its gaping cavity by about 14 million cubic meters a day.  The summit explosion for today occurred at 1:13pm HST, as usual registering as magnitude 5.3, with a minor ash & gas plume about 1000 feet high:

summit explosion caught on livestream

Captured from the USGS/HVO Kilauea Livestream. That enormously long crack on the right especially impressed me. Below, I’ve made a before-and-after animation to show some of the changes at Halema’uma’u over the last two days, using screengrabs from HVO’s webcam.

Before-and-after photos of Halema’uma’u from HVO webcam. First screengrab morning of June 19; second is afternoon of June 21. (Larger-sized)

While Kilauea can’t sit still, Mauna Loa’s status has been downgraded to GREEN following six months of “near background level” seismic activity. See the “remarks” section of the USGS June 21 Mauna Loa update explaining the context for this announcement and Mauna Loa’s behavior over the past five years.

 June 19 Montage of Leilani Estates at Night

Good video reminding us of where it all started, Leilani Estates, as well as the unforgettable sound of Fissure 8 roaring:

Continue reading June 21: Mauna Loa Green, Kilauea Red

June 19: Steve Brantley USGS Talk on Eruption Status

On Tuesday, June 19, there was a Puna Community Meeting at Pahoa High School at 5pm. As usual, Steve Brantley of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory/USGS gave an excellent slide presentation reviewing the current state of the Kilauea eruiption. He covered the “perched lava flow” in the Lower Rift Zone and the dramatic changes at the summit, placing each in context with previous similar events. (I didn’t realize there were records of many past Halema’uma’u collapses).

Video of the entire meeting is posted here. The USGS talk starts at 42:40. I’ve transcribed it below, adding photos when I have something close (and restoring his graphs/diagrams which don’t come through very well on video recording).

Steve Brantley, HVO/USGS:

Continue reading June 19: Steve Brantley USGS Talk on Eruption Status

June 20: Jaggar Museum Collection Rescued

Today’s Eruption Summary:

Status quo continues, with Fissure 8 feeding a large, fast-flowing channel to the ocean, where it’s entering on the south side of the lava delta today. Upstream along the river, there’s occasional spillovers, but these never travel far from the levees. Top speeds on June 18 were measured at 20mph, by the way. Fissures 6 and 16 have reverted to fuming. (I see no white speck left of Fissure 8 on the LERZ webcam [correction: it’s back at 9:45pm]). Today’s summit explosion occurred at 4:22am (5.3ish), with a minor ash plume rising 6,000 feet above sea level (2000 feet above Kilauea).

Saying Goodbye (At Least For Now)
USGS: “The rock wall at the Jaggar Museum Overlook is cracked and crumbling.
USGS image taken June 18, 2018.”

Today’s big news was confirmation that Jaggar Museum has evacuated its exhibits:

Hawaii Volcanoes NPS: “The cracks on the floor are from earthquake damage. Structural damage from the quakes may have already compromised the building. The observation deck has a new and noticeable tilt. The bigger worry is the increasing and dangerous instability of the crater rim under the building.”

Meanwhile, HVO staff is “making arrangements to remove as much archival and historical material as possible from the buildings,”  They’re so busy monitoring this eruption that I think they may need to hire movers:

Outside, it’s time to bid farewell to the old Halema’uma’u overlook & parking lot:

USGS: “View of the southern edge of the growing Halema‘uma‘u crater (middle right) during yesterday’s [Jun 19] helicopter-assisted work at Kīlauea’s summit. The once-popular parking lot (closed since 2008) that provided access to Halema‘uma‘u is no longer–the parking lot fell into the crater this past week as more and more of the Kīlauea Crater floor slides into Halema‘uma‘u. The Crater Rim Drive road (middle) now ends at Halema‘uma‘u instead of the parking lot. The view is toward the west-northwest.” (Full-sized)

Continue reading June 20: Jaggar Museum Collection Rescued

June 19: Magnificent Desolation

Six weeks in, this eruption can still take one’s breath away.

USGS: During the helicopter overflight on June 18, crews captured this image of the growing Halema‘uma‘u crater viewed to the southeast. With HVO and Jagger Museum sitting on the caldera rim (right side, middle where the road bends to the left) it is easier to comprehend the scale of subsidence at the summit. The estimated total volume loss is about 260 million cubic meters as of June 15th. (Full-sized)

USGS: “Fissure 8 vigor increased overnight June 18-19 with lava fountains reaching up to 60 m (200 ft). Spatter built up the cone to the east and into the channel. In this photograph, spatter lands on the east cone and flows downward.” (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

Today’s summit explosion came early, 5:05am HST, with a weak ash/gas plume that reached 5,000 feet above sea level (Kilauea is ~4,000). Every one of these explosions means more downdropping and subsidence, resulting in the colossal changes we’re seeing to Halema’uma’u.

In the Lower East Rift Zone, Fissure 8 climbed back up to 200 foot fountains last night, beefing up the sides of its cone with spatter (but not adding much more height).  This morning the river was full to the top of its levees with a few minor breakouts.

Some of these overflows made it past the edge of earlier flows. One went north up Pohoiki Road a short distance before stalling, while another crept northwest along Luana Street. Fissure 6, 15, 16 are “oozing” lava and steaming. Near the ocean, the channel has forked to create two ocean entries, but the only place where it’s still covering more land is a creeping southwest edge of the lava flow in the Vacationland area.

(Above vimeo channel is nothing but daily ocean entry videos.)

More USGS Images and Videos

Continue reading June 19: Magnificent Desolation