May 31: One Month On

It’s been exactly a month since the first lava started emerging from fissures in Leilani Estates on May 3. And what a month it’s been.

USGS Caption: Crews make visual observations of activity at fissure 8 around 5:30 am HST. Fountain heights this morning continue to reach 70 to 80 m (230 to 260 ft above ground level. The fountaining feeds a lava flow that is moving to the northeast along Highway 132 into the area of Noni Farms Road. Full-sized)

The Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) eruption has built in intensity by stages. Earthquakes, cracks, fissures, toxic gasses, spattering lava, larger and longer lava flows, and increasingly voluminous fountains have slowly engulfed two subdivisions and the forests and fields of lower Puna. They’ve heaped up acres of spatter ramparts, thick lava flows, overflowing ponds and rivers creeping down to the ocean. They’ve emitted a’a and pahoehoespatter and lava bombs, Pele’s Hair and Pele’s Tears, tephra/pyroclasts and cinders, vog, laze, and glowing blue flames.

Meanwhile, Pu’u O’o on Kilauea’s shoulder drained and died after a historic 35-year-long eruption. The summit lava lake in Halema’uma’u Crater followed suit, draining away more gradually but no less dramatically, with rockfalls and earthquakes and clouds of ash rising as high as 15,000 feet. Downwind communities are suffering from its ash and vog. The threat of steam explosions sending rocks flying half a mile has forced the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. That, coupled with jittery tourist cancellations, has struck almost as big a blow to the rest of the Big Island as lava has done to a few square miles of Puna.

The USGS and Hawaii Civil Defense have done a herculean job of monitoring, informing, warning, and moving people out of harm’s way in this fast-moving and complex natural disaster. And locals are rallying as best they can to support one another.

Today’s Eruption Summary

Kilauea’s still pulling some (alas, not all) of its punches. Early Wednesday morning, Fissure 8’s lava flow was surging towards Four Corners in sprints up to 600 yards an hour, causing emergency officials to go door to door ordering emergency evacuations. Luckily, it’s slowed, although it’s still inching towards the last remaining road in and out of Puna. People have had two precious days to go back and rescue pets and possessions before the lava cuts them off.

Meanwhile, the summit today was steaming with minor ash explosions. The USGS just released another drone survey of Halema’uma’u filmed May 26:

See caption on USGS website, and compare with drone footage of May 21.


Jessica Ball, USGS. See transcript. She talks about fissure 8 lava flow prompting new Kapoho and Noni evacuations. Summit same old, same old. NWS reported a 12,000 ft tall ash plume yesterday.

USGS Fissure map as of May 31, 2pm. (Full-sized)

Normally I don’t copy these out, but to summarize where we are one month in:

Kīlauea Volcano Lower East Rift Zone

Vigorous eruption of lava continues from the lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) fissure system in the area of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens.

Fissure 8 is continuing to produce persistent fountains that are reaching heights of up to 260 feet. A small spatter cone is forming on the downwind side of the fountain and is approximately 100 feet high. The fountains are feeding a major flow field heading north through Leilani Estates and then to the northeast along the course of Highway 132. Minor overflows from the margins of the channel are occurring along its length. The front of the Fissure 8 flow is advancing through agricultural lands and had crossed Railroad Avenue by 7:30 PM HST. Ground and UAS crews are in the area closely monitoring the progress of the Fissure 8 flow front. At 21:53 PM HST, the flow front was approximately 1.1 miles from the Four Corners area (the intersection of Highways 132 and 137).

The Fissure 18 flow that advanced to within 0.5 mi of Highway 137 has stagnated. The new flow that branches from the same channel 1.5 miles upslope appears to have captured most of the lava output from Fissure 18. It is descending downslope just to the south of the previous flow.

Fissure 22 is weakly active, and lava is pooling around the vent.

Pele’s hair and other lightweight volcanic glass from high fountaining of Fissure 8 are falling downwind of the fissure and accumulating on the ground within Leilani Estates. Winds may waft lighter particles to greater distances. Residents are urged to minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation similar to volcanic ash.

The most recent map of lava flows can be found here:

HVO field crews are on site tracking the fountains, lava flows, and spattering from multiple fissures as conditions allow and reporting information to Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Volcanic gas emissions remain very high from the fissure eruptions. Trade wind conditions are bringing vog to the south and west sides of the Island of Hawaii.

Magma continues to be supplied to the lower East Rift Zone. Earthquake locations have not moved farther downrift in the past few days and the number of located earthquakes remains low. Seismicity at the summit remain low with numerous small magnitude earthquakes and low amplitude background tremor.

Additional ground cracking and outbreaks of lava in the area of the active fissures are possible. Residents downslope of the region of fissures should heed all Hawaii County Civil Defense messages and warnings.

USGS/HVO continues to monitor the lower East Rift Zone activity 24/7 in coordination with Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Kīlauea Volcano Summit

Ash continued to erupt intermittently from the vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at Kīlauea’s summit. Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ash fall downwind are possible at any time. Earthquake activity is elevated at the summit, with many small events. Volcanic gas emissions at the summit remain high.

For forecasts of where ash would fall under forecast wind conditions, please consult the Ash3D model output here:


USGS Caption: On the May 31 morning overflight, there were four main fissure 8 flow fronts. This photo, looking roughly northeast, shows the four fronts, evident in the four plumes (one recessed a bit from the others). The front of the Fissure 8 flow near Noni Farms road advanced at rates of about 80 yards/hour, and at 6:15 AM HST, the flow front was 2.2 miles above the Four Corners area. (Full-sized
USGS Caption: Lava from fissure 8 advances on Kahukai Street. Lava in this area is as much as 3.5 yards in height.
USGS Caption: “Lava from fissure 18 travels to the southeast (lower left of photo). The flow front that had approached the ocean yesterday has stalled. This view is looking uprift, with fissure 8 in the distance (upper right of photo).” (Full-sized)

Screengrab I just took of the LERZ webcam on the HVO website.
USGS 6PM Media Conference Call

Summary: Eruption is continuing with no signs of stopping. Wendy Stovall gives all kinds of geeky tidbits about temperatures, heights, where the magma is coming from, plumbing system of Kilauea. She emphasizes that Kilauea receives a “continuous supply of magma from the deep mantle” thanks to its mantle plume. Scientists are starting to discuss calling this a new eruption, but their focus right now is on collecting data and getting info to Civil Defense.

[My notes/paraphrase of this conference call posted here.]


Too many vocab words!  Explanation of pyroclasts. This guide may also help: pyroclasts, tephra, lava bombs, lapilli.

Hawaii Civil Defense / Official Announcements:

Civil Defense Alerts today: 7am (video) | 12pm (video) | 10AM |  6:45 PM (Video)

At 12PM, Mayor Harry Kim issued a new Mandatory Evacuation Order for the eastern half of Leilani Estates (map) with penalties for holdouts. Kim also issued an Emergency Rule limiting access to the Kapoho area and an Emergency Shelter proclamation to help streamline construction of emergency shelters and temporary housing.

Local News Reports

Lava Update – Kapoho Flow Continues” — Mick Calber’s own notes on his May 31 overflight:


Social Media Roundup:

(replies to above vid include a bit of geeking with USGS Volcanoes social media folks)

Note: the map below isn’t official; it’s crowdsourced by people like longtime lava photographer Brian Lowry (lavapix).

HNN Mileka Lincoln reports:

#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano UPDATE (May 31 at 6:30 PM): According to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists, fissure 8 in #LeilaniEstates is shooting lava upwards of 260 feet and has been at least that high for the past two days. They say the lava flow created by fissure 8 is 4.5 miles long after rushing through the subdivision, passing through Puna Geothermal Venture, cutting across Highway 132 and now trekking toward Four Corners. USGS HVO scientists say the front of the fissure 8 flow near Noni Farms Road advanced at rates up to 100 yards/hour. At 12:30 PM HST, the flow front was 1.9 miles from the Highway 132 / Highway 137 intersection. Geologists say a small spatter cone is forming on the downwind side of the fountain and is approximately 100 feet high. The fountains are feeding flow activity to the northeast, and minor overflows from the fissure 8 channel are occurring along its length. One overflow covered the remaining northern part of Makamae Street in Leilani Estates. This overflow crossed Kahukai street, filling in a low area between Makamae and Luana streets. USGS says high eruption rates from Fissure 8 have led to the formation of a leveed channel along the western edge of the lava flow. Failure of flow levees could result in rapid advance of flows. Flow margins are extremely hazardous and should not be approached. Fissure 18 feeds the upper part of a lava flow that extends to 1.5 miles from Highway 137; the lower portion of the fissure 18 lava flow stalled about 0.5 miles from the highway north of Ahalanui County Park. Fissure 2 is weakly active and is pooling lava around the vent. Pele's hair and and other lightweight volcanic glass from high fountaining of fissure 8 are falling to the west of the fissure and accumulating on the ground within Leilani Estates. Winds my waft lighter particles to greater distances. Residents are urged to minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation similar to volcanic ash. Stay tuned to @HawaiiNewsNow for the very latest developments #HInews #HawaiiNews #HNN #HawaiiNewsNow #WeAreYourSource (Photos: @BruceOmori / @extremeexposurefineartgallery)

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#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano UPDATE (May 31 at 7:45 PM): Leilani Estates evacuees are supposed to be leaving the subdivision at 6 PM. They get the chance to re-enter at 7 AM the following day, if conditions allow. But Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency officials are aware that many people have been staying overnight — they say that given the unpredictability of the fountaining at fissure 8 is creating a hazardous situation that is no longer safe. "This is a mandatory evacuation order and it means what it says. It means you must leave,” said Janet Snyder of the Hawaiʻi County Mayor’s Office. The newly established mandatory evacuation zone is in the areas including and east of Pōmaikaʻi Street. Glen and Kristy Cannon’s backyard used to be lehua, lilikoʻi and albizia trees — now it’s a 200 foot geyser of lava shooting out of fissure 8. Their neighbors across the street Chris and Wenndy Klepps helped move them after clearing their own house. Effective immediately, residents still inside have until Noon tomorrow to leave or they could face arrest or personal financial responsibility for rescue costs. “As far as being arrested — I think that may be taking things a little too far unless they do something in order to get arrested. Most of us here in Leilani – we’ve left. We know the danger. We’ve vacated what we can as we can. We’re just being responsible,” said Klepps. The mandatory evacuation order was signed this morning by Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim and will last 60 days. “Anybody who is there now, if they choose to stay — in my opinion, it’s okay — you take whatever you get — because it’s not fair having had all that opportunity to leave to not and then expect somebody else to risk their life and come and get you when you could have gotten out,” said Michal Delyria, a Leilani Estates resident in the new evacuation zone. Exactly four weeks to the day that the first fissure opened up in Leilani Estates, USGS HVO geologists tells us there is absolutely no way of knowing when this eruption event will be coming to an end. Stay tuned to @HawaiiNewsNow for the very latest developments #HInews #HawaiiNews #HNN #HawaiiNewsNow #WeAreYourSource

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#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano UPDATE (May 31 at 9:45 PM): Four weeks ago today, I was reporting #LIVE from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park watching in absolute awe as the sun rose over Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. It was as if someone had painted the sky in the most incredibly vivid shades of red, orange and yellow. When I looked up tonight and saw the moon peeking out behind the clouds over Pāhoa, it took me right back to that moment. Four weeks ago today, the first fissure opened up on Mohala Street in #LeilaniEstates. Since then, 23 other fissures have broken out — displacing approximately 2,500 people and claiming at least 77 homes. At last check, lava has covered at least 3,200 acres and crossed two major highways: Highway 137, which is shut down between Pohoiki and Kamaʻili Roads and Highway 132, which is shut down from Lava Tree State Park to Four Corners. At 12:30 PM, USGS says the flow front was 1.9 miles from the Highway 132 / Highway 137 intersection. Another lava flow from fissure 18 has stalled about half a mile from the highway north of Ahalanui County Park. HVO geologists say there’s no indication when this eruption will end — but I also know the aloha within and for this community can outlast any challenge ❤️ You are loved & supported!! Mālama pono #PunaStrong #AlohaKekahiIKekahi

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