May 26: Lava Turns Towards PGV

Puna residents watch with a sinking feeling of “I told you so” as a ponderous a’a flow crossed Pahoa Pohoiki Road slightly north of the geothermal plant, inching towards it. Officials think they’ve got the wells quenched  (I notice they quietly dropped the idea of plugging them), and that they’re safe.

Hawaii County photo looking south across Pohoiki Road, geothermal plant bottom left. Photo not timestamped but probably around noon. “Fissures 7 and 21 are feeding an ‘a’ā flow that has advanced to the northeast and this afternoon crossed Pahoa Pohoiki Road onto PGV property, USGS reported.”

Meanwhile, Fissure 7 is causing trouble in all directions; its lava pond has sent another flow “cascading into Pawaii crater” (6:15pm).  Looking at the map, I’m betting that crater is an old vent from a previous fissure eruption just like this one. In addition to fluid/runny pahoehoe flows, some of the longer flows are a’a.

The summit has also been busy today, with three ash explosions reaching the ~10,000 foot height between midnight and dawn, and some reaching “as high as 12-13K‘ [above sea level]” this morning. Reminder: Kilauea is 4009 feet above sea level (asl).

Moving on. I’ve gotten in the habit of checking the Lower East Rift Zone webcam last thing before I post:

USGS webcam of LERZ. Grabbed just before midnight, May 26. Is that a lava flow coming towards the camera?

Next image on the LERZ webcam.

I do believe it is. Has that lava pond broken loose?

Lava tally as of Saturday morning: 41 houses, 82 structures total. A further 37 homes isolated by lava crossing roads. Lava has covered 3.7 square miles/2372 acres so far.

Here’s the usual roundup of the day’s eruption news, astonishing views, and geeky info by geologists:

USGS Morning Status Update With Wendy Stovall

  • Summit very active recently.
  • >300 earthquakes in past 48 hrs, dozen+ between M3 and M4
  • Continued subsidence. 5 feet drop around Halema’uma’u.
  • Deflation causing rockfalls, more ash plumes
  • 3 ash explosions yesterday reached 10K ft asl; smaller ones also
  • Lower East Rift Zone: center fissures active; eastern edge Leilani Estates
  • Fissure 8 reactivated but main activity is still 7 & 21
  • they’re sending 2 lava channels down to coast
  • 2 ocean entries, western might be forming a lava tube
USGS Fissure Map as of 3PM Link to full-sized)
HVO Photos and Videos

Why do I keep reposting these when they’re on the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory website? Because only the past ten days’ entries are available on their Photo & Video Chronology page. Anything earlier can only be accessed by searching, because the “Archive” stopped updating in 2010.

So. Today USGS posted a photo of a textbook a’a lava flow which will be handy for answering questions.

USGS Caption: This ‘a‘ā flow, erupted from fissures 7 and 21, was approximately 3–4 meters (yards) high at the flow front and slowly advancing to the northeast in the Leilani Estates subdivision around 10:30 a.m. HST today. (Full-sized photo)

This is the flow creeping towards PGV.

Also posted by HVO, a vent which reminds me of Stromboli’s gassy vents, although without the distinctive on-off-on-off action:

Here’s the two lava ocean entry points now. Reportedly the western one (farther away) is skimming over on top, trying to build itself a lava tube.

USGS caption: “An aerial view, looking west, of the two active ocean entries on Kīlauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone. The large white plume (foreground) is the eastern ocean entry; the weaker, western plume can be seen in the distance. The white plume, referred to as “laze,” is a mixture of condensed acidic steam, hydrochloric acid gas, and tiny shards of volcanic glass that can irritate lungs, eyes and skin.” Full-sized)

USGS photo of Fissure 22 from above.

USGS caption: “Aerial view of fissure 22 looking toward the south. Fissure 22 continues to erupt lava that is flowing southeast to the coast and entering the ocean.” (Full-sized)

A lot of confused people watching HCB’s livestream thought the “volcano had stopped” or “the eruption was dying down” Friday because those spatter ramparts had built so they were concealing the fountains and deflecting the lava south. Plus, of course, it had died down a bit with Fissure 7, 21, etc grabbing some of the lava further up the pipes.

Morning Helicopter Flyover (with noise):

Articles/Posts By GeologistS

Thanks, Google: “New Developments and a little history from Kilauea.”  I remember this post! Magma Cum Laude blogger Jessica Ball, at the time a postdoc geology student, took a guided tour with Don Swanson showing students around Kilauea Caldera just before the Halemaumau lava lake formed. She’s got lots of lovely geeky details about the 1924 debris field, with photos of some blocks Don pointed out.

Ah, here’s some lovely random pahoehoe today. (Just because.)

News Reports From Local Stations

Kilauea On Social Media

From Mileka Lincoln’s news reports to HNN throughout the day. a couple of raw clips of lava with no commentary:

Someone deserves an engineering prize:

I always hesitate to give people taking foolhardy risks any publicity, but here’s a fascinating up-close of a newly-solidified (?) pahoehoe flow. Now I finally understand why it’s sometimes described as “ropey”:

Since the outside of lava cools and solidifies while the inside is still molten, it’s scarily possible for it to look solid and give way when you put weight on it. That’s a hideous way to win a Darwin Award.