May 23: Blue Flames? Now You’re Just Showing Off

Kilauea’s chief resident has found another way to amaze and/or injure people reckless enough to get too close to her redecorating:

I had a hunch the Lower East Rift Zone webcam would be interesting tonight. I wasn’t disappointed:

I see what they mean about the Leilani fissures further west (uprift, towards the camera) reactivating today.

Edited to add: Yikes.

It’s 11:06 PM in Hawaii; second screengrab an hour or so later.

I was about to hit post, when I saw erstwhile reporter Mileka Lincoln and her crew posted this. Wow.

(recorded just an hour ago at time of this post.)

Now, let’s have the evening roundup of poignant news, amazing views, and interesting science…

USGS Images and Info (much more on their photo & vid page)

NEW RESOURCE PAGE: HVO has added a “Resources for 2018 Lower East Rift Zone and Summit Activity” page. Lots of stuff all in one place.

End of the road  (note downed powerlines):

[USGS Photo & Vid Page] Fissure 6 – they’re numbered by when they first appeared — reactivated today and put a berm over Pokoiki Road (already cut off Saturday). [Full-sized]
Ocean Entry Overview showing hydrochloric acid & glass particles plume (“laze”), “channelized” lava flow coming down.

[<a href="">USGS Photo & Vid Page</a>] [<a href="">Full Sized</a>

Worth magnifying to see how tough those trees are… many are still hanging on. Islands of older lava, usually reforested, surrounded by new lava flows is called a “Kipuka.” Waaaay in the background is the tallest fountain— #22 we’ll call it— doing the lion’s share of pahoehoe-pumping.

Amazing early morning overflight clip: The ordinary world just ends, and you could imagine what’s beyond it is the Earth at its very beginnings.

USGS: 9AM Status Update

USGS Volcanologist Wendy Stovall (worth watching first 50secs for lava footage):

[PARAPHRASED] Activity continues at both summit and Lower East Rift Zone.

Activity in LERZ is coming from six fissures, and activity has moved from the east back to the west; now back in western edge of Leilani Estates. Lava flowing vigorously to the south, ocean entry. Ocean entry migrating west. Laze plume will continue as long as there’s ocean entry; Pu’u O’o lava flows were making laze before this.

Summit: Activity producing explosions that happen about two times a day. These produce ash rising 8000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. Several minor explosions throughout day between these larger explosions. Larger explosions produce ashfall that goes downwind, affecting downwind communities. Still continuing deflation, high seismicity in summit area.

USGS Late Wednesday Evening HVO additions from HVO Hazards/Alert page: 

  • Fissures 6 through 22 continue erupting lava fountains.
  • F22 feeds single lava channel to coast.
  • 5,6,13,19 are making a new lava flow down towards the sea.
  • 17 continues weak spattering.
  • SO2 levels continue to be high downwind along LERZ.
  • Laze continues to be dangerous hazard at ocean entry point.
  • Kilauea summit crater erupted “multiple small eruptions of ash,” largest around 10:30 AM, but all under 10,000 feet above sea level.
  • Edit: red-bordered widget on front page of HVO says there was a small explosion from overlook crater at 6:44PM, and ash went up 7000 feet, but “the cloud did not contain much ash and cleared quickly.”

These alerts are mirrored on USGS “Kilauea erupts” page along with same photos, videos.

The front page of Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory now has a widget in a red box listing the most recent ash explosion or other eruption event. Click “More” to see previous entries.

Audio from USGS Late Wednesday (May 23) Conference Call:

Wendy Stovall: Eruptions still continuing from 2 sites, summit and LERZ. LERZ activity moving from furthest east vents back towards the west [uprift, back Kilauea & source of magma]. Still seeing a little activity at furthest-east vent, 17, low fountaining (video clip), no progression of flow front. West from there, 22, 19, 6, 5, 13, 23 active.
Overnight and into morning seeing long line of low fountains from these fissures. 22 still main focus of activity. Heights up to 200 feet. Fountains to its west ~60-100 feet. Lava flowing from them south. Ocean entry active, migrating west. Area to n of active fissure line”relatively blocked” by spatter ramparts, walls of lava built up [from what fountains are tossing out]
Summit: explosion last night after 10PM. Ash plume 8-9000 feet asl. Later this week USG installing more monitoring equipment/sensors at summit. Earthquakes at summit still elevated. Summit still subsiding. Explosive events about 2x day sending ashfall downwind that reaches people. Smaller explosive events between larger ones.
Earthquake activity in LERZ stable, continuing about the same rate, Deformation shows rift zone not inflating or deflating but widening to accommodate magma beneath.
[Other voice on phone, maybe Tina Neal, asks for Wendy to explain a little more about methane explosions since media asking lots of questions about blue flames.]
Wendy: Methane burns with blue flames. They’re coming up through road cracks. Lava burns vegetation on surface,which forms methane, which travels through ground, cracks [lava may be covering area] and comes up, If methane trapped underground and builds up, may trigger methane explosion “which will throw blocks several meters away.”

Additionally, the USGS has started writing more FAQs. Including:

HNN reporter Mileka Lincoln explains the difference between a’a vs. pahoehoe with live demo:

Articles By Other Geologists

Local News Coverage


Erupting Volcano Produces Blue Flames From Methane – Has good mini-interview from USGS Wendy Stovall explaining flames, mentioning spatter wall protecting plant. Article also briefly recaps state of eruption (50 structures destroyed). Article also says officials finished plugging PGV wells Tuesday, but that confuses me, because I thought they’d only quenched them with water or mud.

Anthony of HCB also posted highlight from today’s livestream, brief collapse. (Posted it earlier; just filing it with this news roundup.)





#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano LATEST (May 22 at 7:30 PM): This new video just came in from @AndrewRichardHara in the field who provides us with this up-close update of fissures 15, 19 & 22 near PGV. Lava continues to inch toward Puna Geothermal Venture's plant, but officials said Tuesday that efforts to quench or plug all 11 wells at the site were successful and that the risk of hazardous gases being released into the community if lava reaches the plant is low. The reassurance comes after days of mounting concern about the threat posed by eruptions nearing the facility. The worst case-scenario that civil defense officials are still preparing for: Lava inundating geothermal wells at the plant and triggering a release of toxic gases. Gov. David Ige said while it's important for authorities to prepare for the worst, he's certain that the risk posed by the plant has been greatly reduced. *Watch the entire press conference from the Emergency Operation Center on my #InstaStory #LIVE* Stay tuned to @HawaiiNewsNow for the very latest developments #HInews #HawaiiNews #HNN #HawaiiNewsNow #WeAreYourSource (Video: Andrew Richard Hara)

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