For a decade before that, there had been an active lava lake at its summit, nestled inside Halemaʻumaʻu Crater inside a larger caldera. There was also a side vent on the volcano’s shoulder, Puʻu ʻŌʻō, erupting lava for 35 years.
On April 30, the pipes burst under Puʻu ʻŌʻō. All the lava from it and the summit lava lake drained down a “rift zone” (faults and cracks) to a residential area 25 miles away, on the southeast tip of the island. Lava started erupting in the Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) on May 3, and continued through early August.
With all that magma (lava when it’s underground) draining away from the summit of the volcano, Halemaʻumaʻu Crater fell in, and the larger caldera around it sank hundreds of feet as well, revealing sulfur banks and other features not seen since Mark Twain visited in the 1800s. These changes didn’t happen all at once, but in stages. During July there were almost daily collapses with shaking equivalent to an M5.3 earthquake (see my video archive).
This blog is a record of the 2018 Kīlauea eruption, with photos, videos, and info from scientists who study it. I posted daily for the first three months of the eruption, and switched to weekly after the lava in the LERZ stopped gushing and the summit stopped collapsing in on itself.
There’s still a little activity— this volcano almost never goes completely quiet— but for now, residents are holding their breath to see if this eruption is really and truly over.
There’s been spots of incandescence, fuming, and small lava flows within the Fissure 8 cone for the past week, a few of which have oozed into the spillway, but eruptive activity remains confined to the cone. These have partly filled in the crater’s deep pit.
Earlier this week there was a sputtery little mini-cone building on the floor of the Fissure 8 cone.
It looks like the USGS is now using drone overflights instead of morning helicopter rides, which is probably a relief to residents living just outside the evacuation zone.
On Saturday, Pu’u O’o underwent some minor collapses throughout the day, sending up intermittent plumes of brown dust. Local tilt/seismicity sensors registered small changes, but these were not reflected further downrift.
However, starting Thursday September 6, tiltmeters in the mid East Rift Zone have registered minor amounts of inflation. “The current rates [of inflation] are much smaller than those measured during the period of major eruptive activity and are not changing rapidly.” —HVO Thursday status report
Sulfur dioxide emissions remain lower than at any time since 2007, including those at LERZ vents which are now so low as to be barely detectable.
And yeah, there’s another small hurricane headed for Hawai’i. It’s very unusual for one to make landfall on any of the islands instead of just brushing past offshore, but Olivia looks set to cross the island chain.
At 6AM The LERZ was cloudy and steamy, but there’s some great views down into Pu’u O’o Crater. Be sure to check out timestamp 2:00; clear view of Halema’uma’u and summit in the distance. Notes/observations on lava update blog.
Bruce Omori also posted observations and 6 photos from this flight on his Facebook, including these lovely views of dawn-golden Kilauea Caldera from afar:
Thursday, Sep 6, 2018, 6:00 am – Kilauea's lower east rift zone overflight: Kīlauea, overshadowed by Mauna Loa.
While no glow or incandescence was reported within Fissure 8’s cone for most of the week, Saturday 9/1 showed a few life signs remain in the LERZ: weak spattering from one spot, and in the evening new lava came out to cover most of the crater floor. But its sides have been slumping and falling in, as have the levees of the now solidified lava channel. While Fissure 8 and some of the surrounding vents continue to steam and fume, SO2 emissions remain low there and at the summit.
No active ocean entries have been seen for the past few days, suggesting that all the residual lava from Fissure 8 has stagnated or drained out.
This week has been a time of repair and taking stock. USGS geologists have been replacing lost or damaged monitoring stations (including the UWE tiltmeter, back on HVO’s deformation page). The drone crews have been out after Hurricane Lane came through to take new detailed aerial surveys of Kilauea’s summit (August 30 video) and Fissure 8 (August 21 video).
They also posted an updated timelapse video of HVO’s panorama cam of Halema’uma’u from April 14 through August 20:
After a busy few months, Kilauea continues to rest with only a pilot light on, so to speak. This week’s big news was that Hurricane Lane passed offshore of the Big Island on Thursday through Saturday, causing extensive flash flooding. But there’s still a little news to report on the dying (?) embers of Kilauea’s 2018 eruption.
On Friday morning, the Hawaii County Fire Department observed a small lava pond still visible deep in Fissure 8’s cone. For most of the week, there was no visible activity apart from a few small jets deep in the cone throwing weak spatter on Monday morning:
The sputtery jets proved to be temporary:
Down at the ocean at Kapoho, there were a few weak dribbles of lava continuing to drain out of the delta at the beginning of the week:
Sulfur dioxide emissions continue to be very low both at the summit and the coast. In fact, on Tuesday, they dropped too low in the Lower East Rift Zone for instruments to measure, although not too low for highly-sensitive human noses to detect.
Video from August 17 posted on the 20th— full-sized version here.
Heavy rain from Hurricane Lane on Friday and Saturday put a hold on USGS overflights and field observations and knocked out a few sensors on the east side of the island. But Kilauea’s extensive sensor network means there was no gap in volcano monitoring, and field crews were on call just in case.
The hurricane had no impact on the volcano apart from heavy rainfall hitting hot rocks and turning to steam in Pu’u O’o’s crater and on the not-yet-cooled lava flows of the LERZ. There were some reports of local white-out conditions from this steam. Rain may also have triggered a few rockfalls at the summit.
The other big Kilauea news this week is that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has set a target reopening date for September 22, aiming to reopen at least the Visitor Center and (they hope) some kind of viewing area from which visitors will be able to see the new, larger Halema’uma’u Crater. They’re also hoping to open Volcano House, but they need to check the stability of the cliffs on which it stands.
National Park Service Geomorphologist Eric Bilderback began evaluating earthquake damage today. All work on recovery will pause this afternoon in preparation for Hurricane Lane. The entire park is closed today and tomorrow. Stay up to date: https://t.co/9Q4rYdxOd2pic.twitter.com/9uSNWxTpwb
On Friday August 19, HVO lowered ground alert levels, just as they lowered aviation alert levels after the ash explosions stopped. Here’s the official notice:
In light of the reduced eruptive activity at Kīlauea Volcano over the last several days, HVO is lowering the Alert Level for ground based hazards from WARNING to WATCH. This change indicates that the hazards posed by crater collapse events (at the Kīlauea summit) and lava flows (Lower East Rift Zone; LERZ) are diminished. However, the change does not mean with absolute certainty that the LERZ eruption or summit collapses are over. It remains possible that eruption and collapse activity could resume.
Remarks: Background and Prognosis
Kīlauea Volcano has remained quiet for well over a week now, with no collapse events at the summit since August 2. Except for a small, crusted-over pond of lava deep inside the fissure 8 cone and a few scattered ocean entries, lava ceased flowing in the LERZ channel on August 6. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions rates at the summit and LERZ are also drastically reduced (the combined rate is lower than at any time since late 2007).
It remains too soon to tell if this diminished activity represents a temporary lull or the end of the LERZ lava flows and/or summit collapses. In 1955, similar pauses of 5 and 16 days occurred during an 88-day-long LERZ eruption. During the Mauna Ulu eruption (1969-1974), a 3.5 month pause occurred in late 1971.
HVO will continue to record detailed visual observations and scrutinize incoming seismic, deformation, and gas data, looking for evidence of significant movement of magma or pressurization as would be expected if the system was building toward renewed activity.
Also on Friday, the National Park Service issued a media release and gave select local media a guided tour of the summit. Lots of info, and worth seeing:
Fissure 8 is still emitting a gas plume, and lava circulates weakly within the cone. Residual lava is still draining into the ocean near Pohoiki. Gas emissions at the summit, Pu’u O’o, and even the Lower East Rift Zone are low.
[This post is a followup to yesterday’s, where I reviewed HVO news, photos and videos from the past week. Here, I’m covering everything else: local news media outlets, images/videos from local photographers, and a week’s worth of good Q&A from HVO/USGS on social media.]
The latest from the @HotSeatHawaii gang. Mick Kalber’s August 12 video shows a few fingers of red lava dribbling out of the delta, and Pohoiki’s new sandbar which is currently blocking the boat ramp, but that can be moved. There’s a quick sweep over the weakly steaming fissures of the LERZ and a glimpse into Fissure 8’s cone, and then they tried to take a distant look at Kilauea’s summit:
So it’s finally arrived, the end (or at least intermission) of Fissure 8’s endless outpouring of lava from May 27 to August 4. The shutdown happened at the end of last week over a period of just 2-3 days.
Fissure 8 isn’t quite dead. There’s lava pooled deep down the cone, bubbling weakly. Residual lava is still draining out of the lava delta into the ocean, some of it quite near the now-famous Pohoiki Boat Ramp. But most of the surface channels have drained and solidified.
The volcano’s summit has settled, too. The caldera floor isn’t inflating or deflating, and the swarms of earthquakes and summit collapses have stopped.
So now the question becomes: how long do geologists, national park staff and residents wait before deciding it’s safe to start repairing the damage? Past Lower East Rift Zone eruptions have paused for days, even weeks. So scientists and officials continue to warn that this eruption could resume at any time.
This week’s Volcano Watch column from Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, written August 9, addresses exactly that question:
Little lava is leaving Fissure 8 today. It’s still bubbling away within the cone, but the channel below it is crusted over, with only residual lava draining down towards Ahalanui and the edge of Isaac Hale Park, and almost no laze plume. The summit’s seismicity is way down, and there’s almost no inflation or deflation since August 3. Now the question becomes: is this a temporary pause, or is this eruption really over?
By the way, while trying to track down photos of the September 1982 lava flow, I found an old webpage (No datestamp, but Internet Archive first scraped it in 1999) with some interesting aerial photos of Kīlauea Caldera from the 70s and 80s. It would be fun to try to match the 1974 aerial photo with a new one, but I haven’t seen one taken from that high yet.
At the top of this post, I posted Mick Kalber’s overflight video from this morning. Bruce Omori posted his photos and notes from this flight on the Lava Update blog, same post mirrored on Facebook with a few more observations:
Lava Update for Monday, Aug 6, 2018, 6:00 am – Kilauea's lower east rift zone overflight:Kīlauea's eruptive activity…
“Since May 16, 2018, the crater depth has more than tripled and the diameter has more than doubled.” ~ HVO
Current Eruption Summary
Volcanic activity has decreased over the past few days, at both the summit and down in the Lower East Rift Zone. However, as HVO warns us (and has stated many times), eruptions wax and wane, and can even stop and start up again. So we don’t yet know whether Pele’s winding down or simply taking a breather.
But for the moment, at least, Fissure 8 is putting out much less lava than before— in fact, this morning (August 5) its level is so far down that it’s barely feeding the channel. Lava levels were already lower and sluggish, and today the river is mostly crusted over and/or moving as thicker, crumbly a’a flows. However, blockages downstream are still causing overflows and breakouts.
Despite the slowdown at the source, lava continues to ooze into the ocean along a long section of the southern flow front. It’s edged a little bit closer to the boat ramp and local park that’s become a symbol for residents mourning the loss of so many other beloved places:
Lava tour boat operator Ikaika Marzo did not see any signs of slowdown at the flow front this morning, and he reported that lava has claimed claimed another popular local surf spot called “Dead Trees.”
At the summit, intervals between collapse events are lengthening. As of 5 pm August 5, it’s been over three days since the last summit collapse event. Today’s mini-update on HVO’s website states:
Rates of seismicity and deformation at summit and lava output from fissure 8 have decreased since most recent collapse event at 11:55 am HST August 2. Too soon to tell if the decrease will persist. Hazardous conditions remain.
Latest Satellite Imagery
The most recent scenes, acquired on August 1, 2, and 5, show little overall motion, which is consistent with the slowing of deformation in the summit area over the past few days. — HVO
Volcano Watch, August 3
And on August 3— before today’s significant lava decrease at Fissure 8— HVO posted out its weekly Volcano Watch column:
Today’s summit collapse came at 11:55 am HST, energy equivalent of an M 5.4. Once again there was a cluster of high M3 foreshocks in the ten minutes or so beforehand, so that there was already some suspended dust from rockfalls.
Northeast Rim livestream cam was stuttering today, but still dramatic.
Also note that HVO’s Fissure 8 webcam was damaged by a brushfire Tuesday and ceased working. In fact, right now it’s stuck on the last photo it took.
While checking on the main webcams page, I caught a lovely time of the evening up at the summit. From the ones that are working:
And speaking of photos, I took a night off, and come back to find HVO posted a ton of good photos! Which I shall mirror here so they’re easier to find after they’ve “fallen off” that Photo & Chronology page.
Most importantly, a new frame from the Cosmo-Skymed satellite radar animation:
Accompanying text with this animation: “Over time, expansion of the summit eruptive vent within Halema‘uma‘u crater and the widening of Halema‘uma‘u itself are obvious. Starting in late May, the development of several cracks outside Halema‘uma‘u is clear, and inward slumping of a large portion of the western, southwestern, and northern crater rim begins. Much of this motion appears to be coincident with the small explosions from the summit that have taken place on a near daily basis since early June. The most recent radar scene, from August 1, shows continued motion along cracks over a broader area of the caldera floor, extending east of Halema‘uma‘u. We expect this slumping to continue as long as the collapse events and overall subsidence persist.”
89 days. That’s how long it’s been since the first fissure started spattering lava in Leilani Estates. Which is one day longer than the 1955 Kapoho eruption, which had been the longest LERZ eruption since records started being kept.
Today’s Eruption Summary
LERZ erupton as per usual. There’s “ooze-outs” of lava on the flow margin, but further inland from Pohoiki. Today’s M5.3 summit collapse was at 7:59 am, when the crater was steaming in the cool morning air.
From HVO, the livestream caught the pressure wave passing through the cloud:
From the NE Caldera Rim livestream, ground shaking and rockfalls were more visible: