June 14: The Face of Pele

Let me pause my science-blogging for a moment and direct your attention to a very special visitor in yesterday’s Tropical Visions overflight video.

About timestamp 0:30 in June 13 overflight video, Madame Pele’s profile appears in the partly-cooled lava. Mahalo to Tutu Pele, to Mick Kalber for his tireless aerial videography, and to my mother for pointing her out to me. [Although it sounds like Mick took the day off, and I should thank Mick’s co-photographer lavajavadude.]

Now, how do I transition from that back to the science side of Kilauea?

Today’s Eruption Summary

Last night and today, Fissure 8’s fountains have rebounded to 200 feet, but the cinder/spatter cone they’ve built is so tall they’re just peeking out:

USGS: “The Fissure 8 viewed from the north at 7:50 AM. The cone is roughly 50 m (165 ft) high at is peak, and a plume of sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gases rises as an orange tinge from the erupting lava fountains (hidden within the cone). Lava is still flowing out of the vent unabated as a full channel. To the left of the cone, a standing wave of lava can be seen in the channel.” (Full-sized)

Fissures 16 and 17 continue to “ooze,” to borrow the USGS’ technical term.

Fissure 8’s lava river remains fast, wide and healthy. It stays incandescent red rather than skimmed over for many miles, which shows just how hot and voluminous it is (26,000 gallons/second). It’s entering the ocean along a dramatically broad front (second half of video clip):

Today’s summit explosion (energy equivalent of M5.3, like clockwork) occurred at 3:19am HST, with an ash plume to 6,000 feet. Again, there were lots of earthquakes in the hours leading up to it, then they dropped off, and now they’re ramping back up to the next explosion. This pattern must be getting pretty old for the nearby residents of Volcano.

After the cut:

USGS info on the ongoing eruption, timelapses of recent changes at the summit, Kilauea-related news, and more stunning photos.

USGS June 14 Morning Briefing

Jessica Ball, HVO/USGS

Or, yeah. What she said. (Transcript here.)

USGS 6am helicopter Overflight

USGS: “The ocean entry is active along the whole length— approximately 1 mile. Small literal explosions are occuring and there are several plumes of laze.”

USGS: “Several laze plumes rise along the ocean entry margin as break outs feed many small and large flows. The largest Pāhoehoe breakout area is on the northern margin of the flow (furthest plume in this image).” (Full-sized)
USGS: “A close up view of the pāhoehoe breakouts along the northern ocean entry.” (Full-sized)
USGS Most Recent Lava Field Map
USGS: “nature of Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone eruption, with changing vent locations, fissures starting and stopping, and varying rates of lava effusion, map details shown here are accurate as of the date/time noted. (Full-sized)
USGS on Social Media

I continue to appreciate how hard the USGS is working to keep up with social media and adapt to our sudden and unexpected demand, since social media hasn’t been a factor in volcanic eruptions until now. It’s not like they don’t have anything better to be doing these days.

We've had a lot of requests for "before and after" photos of Halema`uma`u. Here is a comparison of photos taken from…

Posted by USGS Volcanoes on Thursday, June 14, 2018

HVO’s staff is just 30 people, currently with about 12 rotating in from the mainland for this emergency. But they don’t have a social media department. They’re squeezing in time to answer public questions along with the rest of their work. So let’s see what they have to say today.

USGS On Changes at the Summit

In replies to the before-and-after post above, USGSVolcanoes noted, “The data so far have indicated that the caldera floor is subsiding most intently around Halema`uma`u, and to a lesser extent elsewhere on the caldera floor. The rim of the caldera is not deforming that much.” Also that while there’s steaming, that’s common for the caldera anyway, not unique to this event. They haven’t seen any temperature changes.

USGS On Fissure 8 / Lava River

Speed between 2-9mph. Asked about the “standing waves” near the vent, they clarified: “We’re not sure if they’re standing waves or lava flowing over harder blocks in the channel. Either way, they certainly look impressive!” What causes standing waves in lava flows? “It’s a form of hydraulic jump – an instance where a rapidly flowing liquid is abruptly slowed and increases in height, converting some of the flow’s kinetic energy into an increase in potential energy. In this case, it would be caused by lava flowing over a channel obstacle.”

I asked them about the glowy spot that’s been showing to the left of Fissure 8 on the webcam lately:

Random screengrabs from USGS Lower East Rift Zone webcam, June 9-14.

Reply: “That is an area around fissure 6 that becomes incandescent occasionally, but it regularly goes dark also. During regular overflights, we have neither seen new lava flows in thermal imagery nor from our eyeball sensors.”

Here’s a few of the team using their eyeball sensors:

Ever wonder what our field crews do out over the night shift? They make observations of incandescent lava, which is…

Posted by USGS Volcanoes on Thursday, June 14, 2018

Asked how quickly they locate new flows: “When new lava breakouts are determined/ground-truthed, our scientists are able to run computer-based lava-flow models. Plausibility maps are ready within minutes.”

Followup on the olivine story:

Yes, olivine sometimes occurs in Hawaiian lava, and small eroded crystals are scattered about the island. No, they’re probably not from current eruption:

Rumor/Conspiracy Theory Whack-a-Mole

I had to resist responding to this myself. Fracking is fracturing rock over a wide area to extract oil, then injecting waste liquids into the rubble. That’s a very different process from sinking a well. I don’t think geothermal wells could work if they had fractured rock in their walls; wouldn’t that dissipate the steam?

Magma is more efficient at breaking rocks than we are! And it’s been doing it for a long time in that area. Remember the old lava that was erupted for the first two weeks of fissures? (Fissures which did not open near the geothermal wells.)

From Other Scientists

A couple of the geology blogs I follow have cast an expert eye on Halema’uma’u.

From Civil Defense and Other Agencies

(6AM | 2PM | 6PM) Usual notices about evacuations, volcanic hazards, community meetings, air quality monitoring. Of  note is the new Disaster Relief Center opening Friday at 8am.  Mayor Harry Kim says there will be shuttle service there from Pahoa Community Center. Just as a reminder, Civil Defense maintain an interactive lava flow map with fissures, streets and closures marked.

The mayor also posted a link to Hawaii mental health services.


This is where that screencap of Pele’s face appeared.

Reports from Local News Outlets

Recommended blog: Dispatches from Volcano: This isn’t a news channel, but rather the blog of someone who lives in Volcano, providing succinct and poignant eruption updates by and for neighbors of Kilauea.

HVO/USGS Kilauea Webcam Timelapses June 7-14

Hawaii247.com posted its weekly timelapse videos of Kilauea webcams:

Social Media Roundup

From above:

Also from above:

#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano LATEST (June 14 at 10:15 AM): *Kala mai iaʻu for the later than usual post. I’ve got a terrible cold, so I’m off-air for a few days — but I’ll be updating on social as often as I can.* Look at how much the waters of what was once #KapohoBay has changed. New aerial footage from this morning of the ocean entry along the Kapoho coastline confirms what USGS HVO geologists also reported seeing which is that the ocean entry remains fairly broad (about 1.5 miles across) with one main entry and several minor ones that have created a lava delta now estimated to be around 270 acres in size. A laze plume at the ocean entry was blowing onshore this morning, and areas of upwelling offshore were also present. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory just released this update: “Fissure 8 lava fountains were observed reaching heights of 200 ft from within the growing cone of cinder and spatter, which is now about 160 ft at its highest point. Lava from Fissure 8 continues to flow through the well-established channel to the ocean at Kapoho, with rare, small overflows of the channel levees. A morning overflight confirmed that activity at the vent and channel continued with no significant changes. Fissures 16 and 18 continue to ooze lava. At 3:19 AM HST, another small explosion occurred at Kīlauea's summit, producing a plume which rose to 6,000 ft above sea level. This event and many of its precursory earthquakes were felt widely in the Volcano area. Inward slumping of the rim and walls of Halemaʻumaʻu continues in response to ongoing subsidence at the summit. Sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano's summit have dropped to levels that are about half those measured prior to the onset of the current episode of eruptive activity. This gas and minor amounts of ash are being transported downwind, with small bursts of ash and gas accompanying intermittent explosive activity.” Stay tuned to @HawaiiNewsNow for the very latest developments #HInews #HawaiiNews #HNN #HawaiiNewsNow #WeAreYourSource

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And from below: