May 29: Day of Reckoning for PGV (and LavaCam)

I’m wiped after following events of the last two nights from 3 timezones later— nothing compared to the exhaustion of Puna residents or HVO geologists, I’m sure— so today’s post is going to be less meticulous.

Today’s Eruption Summary

Sunday and Monday nights, the new monster Fissure 8 tossed fragments high in the air that carried onto houses over a mile away: clinkerly bubbly volcanic cinders (also called tephra), fine glass strands called Pele’s hair, and small volcanic glass droplets called Pele’s tears. Authorities warned people to be careful of Pele’s hair, which is basically natural fiberglass, as it can cause skin and eye irritation.

Another spate of vigorous 200-foot-tall fountaining from Fissure 8 last night sent a second fast-moving flow northeast along the edge of Sunday night’s flow, triggering more emergency evacuations and (I’m afraid, haven’t seen any tally) the loss of more homes. At 6:30am Tuesday, civil defense closed Highway 132 near the geothermal plant in anticipation that lava would reach it today. At 3:30PM, the lava did indeed begin to encroach on 132, leaving only one other road still open to Lower Puna.

Before crossing 132, 8’s northeast lava flow marched towards and into PGV property, cut off plant’s main access road, prompted staff to evacuate, and began to burn and cover over buildings and equipment. I believe sensors have been left to monitor the wells. I’m guessing a’a is a better thing to get covered by: it’s somewhat cooler than pahoehoe, and it can’t seep into cracks.

At the summit, ash eruptions and earthquakes continue. A 2am ash eruption was 15,000 feet tall, followed by a 4.5 earthquake. Light winds are sending the ash nw, towards Volcano and Pahala. There’s a meeting at Pahala tonight to discuss vog and ashfall, which is going to be an ongoing problem for these communities however long this eruptive phase lasts. 

At night, the webcam is showing incandescent blocks flung out onto the rim of Halema’uma’u Crater, but we don’t know how big or how many because it’s unsafe for scientists to approach. However, they’re installing a new thermal cam soon that should help them see the blocks. (Source: 11AM conference call) 

Time for today’s roundup of USGS bulletins and info, relevant posts by geologists, images and videos, local news reports, and the eruption through the eyes of social media.

USGS Updates and tidbits

In a video interview, USGS Jim Hauahikaua says geologists are beginning to suspect the enlargement of the Overlook Vent within Halema’uma’u in this eruption (from 16 to 90 acres)  and the explosions of the 1924 eruption may be due to gas explosions not simply steam.

Here’s the 11am conference call between the USGS, NPS, NWS, and press.

Quick summary:

  • Info on Fissure 8’s vigorous activity and lava pond breakout Sunday night
  • Explainer on tephra/Pele’s hair (more in the Q&A segment)
  • Ash explosions at summit might be steam-driven and are definitely throwing incandescent blocks
  • Dike/magma is below surface all along LERZ but it looks like activity’s migrating back west a bit (but no sign yet it’s going to pop out under Highway 130)
  • There’s earthquake damage to park’s water system around Kilauea caldera plus damage to Jaggar Museum and HVO (not sure how bad). 

(Incandescent blocks on HVO webcam overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater):

Bryan Lowry caught another glimpse on the webcam:

What is Pele’s Hair? Jim Hauahikaua explains.

What is Pele’s Hair? Jim Kauahikaua – USGS / HVO

Posted by KWXX FM on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Last but not least, the USGS Twitter caused a bit of a stir by answering someone’s question about roasting marshmallows: 


From other Geologists Around the Web
USGS Photo of tephra on Leilani Street, morning May 29. (Full-sized)
Relevant reports from Local News

Social Media Scour

Bleak view of the lava flows from Fissure 8 (I think) in Hawaii Civil Defense overflight:

From Civil Defense Flickr album

Tephra/cinders flung out of Fissure 8:

I’m guessing  Marzo said “Reticulite.” That’s basically the lava equivalent of champagne foam, a froth of molten rock that’s more bubbles than lava— which, when it solidifies, looks like a sponge made of gold. Did he really find some of that? I dunno. Hope he posts a photo.

Below: Bryan Lowry/, a longtime photographer of Kilauea whose work I’ve admired for many years, is keeping away from the “circus” at Leilani. But his Twitter is worth following, as he’s good at figuring out details from photos and webcams:

Eruptions in Leilani very much active. Active lava flows is still feeding the flows that are headed to highway 132. This…

Posted by Ikaika Marzo on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Special Thanks

To Anthony Quintano (Honolulu Civil Beat) for livestreaming this eruption for over two weeks, and to John and David who graciously let Anthony use their home as a base when they themselves had evacuated.

It’s been an amazing experience over the last two weeks seeing and hearing a landscape completely transformed before our eyes from dense forest and grassy fields to lava rivers, lakes and moonscape.

Here’s an archived version of what’s probably the last LavaCam, cut off at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon when lava crossing 132 cut power.

But one really needs to go back to HCB’s channel and browse the progression of the eruption day by day.

Most of all, best wishes to John and David. May they find home and a garden again soon, or be able to return to their own in a few months (let’s hope) when this is all over. Here’s their GoFundMe.

May 29 Civil Defense overflight. Low fountain/vents to the right are the 16-20-22 complex that the lavacam was focused on for most of the past 2 weeks. (Source)