July 13: Hawai’i Has a New Island (For Now)

July 13, 2018. USGS: “A tiny new island of lava has formed on the northernmost part of the ocean entry. During this morning’s overflight, HVO’s field crew noticed the island was oozing lava similar to the lava oozing from the broad flow front along the coastline.” (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

Fissure 8’s lava flow has settled into its new course, turning right just before Kapoho Cone and proceeding south-southeast to the ocean in a strong channelized a’a flow. Some lava, apparently following the earlier paths (lava tubes, maybe?) to the sea, is still squeezing out of the broad 6km (3.7) mile lava delta to the north of the new ocean entry.

A fascinating footnote: while the northern “ooze-outs” are weakening, a tiny lava island popped up just offshore of them last night, and it is itself oozing lava:

July 13, 2018. USGS: “A closer view of the new “island,” which was estimated to be just a few meters offshore, and perhaps 6-9 meters (20-30 ft) in diameter. It’s most likely part of the fissure 8 flow that’s entering the ocean—and possibly a submarine tumulus that built up underwater and emerged above sea level.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 22 has stopped spattering. However, many inactive fissures were steaming today, “possibly due to the increasing humidity in the area.”

Today’s summit collapse occurred at 7:06pm HST, with the energy equivalent of a 5.3 earthquake, as usual. HVO is setting up a new livestream from Volcano House, but it’s not fully operational yet, so we made do with the ailing HVO webcam today (video clip).

July 13, 2018. USGS: “View of Halema‘uma‘u and Kīlauea caldera just before 8:00 a.m. HST today, as seen from HVO’s observation point near Volcano House. Gusty winds were blowing quite a lot of rock-fall dust, visible both within and along the rim of the crater.” (Full-sized)

It’s been fascinating watching geologists collect data, figure things out, and incorporate these discoveries into their daily Kilauea alerts. Just as the HVO team  started predicting the summit’s cyclical collapse/explosions, now they’ve started predicting (or at least watching for) Fissure 8’s lava surges and possible spillovers a few hours after each summit collapse. Sure enough:

Also, we’ve got a new view of ever-expanding Halema’uma’u Crater in Kilauea’s summit caldera this morning:

July 13, 2018. USGS: “USGS scientists captured this stunning aerial photo of Halema‘uma‘u and part of the Kīlauea caldera floor during a helicopter overflight of Kīlauea’s summit this morning. In the lower third of the image, you can see the buildings that housed the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park’s Jaggar Museum, the museum parking area, and a section of the Park’s Crater Rim Drive. Although recent summit explosions have produced little ash, the drab gray landscape is a result of multiple thin layers of ash that have blanketed the summit area during the ongoing explosions.” (Full-sized)

I couldn’t find a comparable aerial photo with the observatory and Jaggar in shot, but this 2009 photo of Halema’uma’u is facing in approximately the same direction. (Look for Crater Rim Rd behind the crater on the left, and note the parking lot obscured by the lava lake’s plume in 2009— lava lake, parking lot, and part of that road collapsed into the crater in June.)

Latest Map of Lower East Rift Zone

No new lava flow diagram/map since yesterday, but thermal maps take a little longer to process, so yesterday’s thermal map was posted today:

July 11, 2018. USGS: “This thermal map shows the fissure system and lava flows as of 6 am on Thursday, July 12. The fountain at Fissure 8 remains active, with the lava flow entering the ocean at numerous points in Kapoho. The channel overflow from July 9-10 created a new lobe that reached the ocean over the past day, destroying Ahalanui Park and the nearby charter school. A robust ocean entry plume was active at the location of Ahalanui Park. The black and white area is the extent of the thermal map. Temperature in the thermal image is displayed as gray-scale values, with the brightest pixels indicating the hottest areas.” (Full-sized)

Compare with Google’s satellite map of the area, which hasn’t been updated since before the eruption.

July 12 USGS/NPS/NWS Press Briefing

Audio file archived here.

USGS Janet Babb summarized Tuesday through Wednesday night’s channelized flow diverting west of Kapoho Crater and taking out charter school and Ahalanui Beach Park, where a “robust ocean entry” has been established. Jessica Ferracane of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park discussed damage at summit and programs still available in parts of park that aren’t closed. And a weather report. Heavier showers through weekend (so watch for lava-boosted showers and thunderstorms) dry spell Monday-Tuesday, tradewinds throughout.

I haven’t had time to listen to all the Q&As (lots of good questions this time), but one interesting tidbit is that the sulfur dioxide emissions from Fissure 8’s lava flow are so high they’re off the scale, so they’re still trying to figure out a way to measure them accurately.

More Photos from USGS

USGS field crews were busy, busy before the weekend, taking too many photos  for me to tuck into the rest of this post.

So let’s join the USGS morning overflight from vent to shore:

July 13, 2018. USGS: “Fissure 8 continues to be the primary erupting vent on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone, although several other fissures were observed steaming during this morning’s overflight. This aerial image shows the fissure 8 vent (near center), channelized flow, and distant ocean entry (upper right).” (Full-sized)

Quick detour behind Fissure 8, to its southwest:

July 13, 2018. USGS: “Sink holes (dark spots to right of large tree) are beginning to form along fractures beneath the field of tephra that has formed downwind of fissure 8. Tephra (Pele’s hair and other airborne volcanic glass fragments) from the fissure 8 lava fountains continues to fall downwind, covering the ground within a few hundred meters (yards) of the active vent. High winds can 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.” (Full-sized)

This is looking back towards Fissure 8. Looks like a bit of a spillover left over from yesterday afternoon’s 2:42 surge:

July 13, 2018. USGS: “The braided lava channel extending from the fissure 8 vent (near top, center) and flowing toward the ocean. Some of the abandoned connector channels were more obvious in this morning’s light than on previous days.” (Full-sized)

Turning around again, we see the new diverted flow bending to the right (south) to pass Kapoho Crater:

July 13, 2018. USGS: ” Continuation of the main fissure 8 channel, which is now flowing on the west side of Kapoho Crater (left) and was entering the ocean about 300 meters west of the Kapoho ocean entry this morning (steam plume in far distance).” (Full-sized)

Another view of Kapoho Cater and the new southern ocean entry’s plume (right) as well as the older broad lava front with all the “ooze-outs” (left):

July 13, 2018. USGS: “This Hawai‘i County Fire Department aerial image shows Kapoho Crater with the most active branch of the fissure 8 lava channel now to the west (right) of the cone and feeding a robust ocean entry. The path of the fissure 8 channel prior to being diverted can be seen east (below and left) of the crater; despite no visible surface connection between this branch and the sea, lava continues to feed a broad ocean entry, forming a diffuse laze plume.” (Full-sized)

And finally, flying all the way to the coast, turning right, and then looking back at the two ocean entry plumes (“robust” one is closest to camera):

July 13, 2018. USGS: “A robust plume (center) was observed this morning at the southern end of the ocean entry, which had migrated about 300 m (985 ft) to the west. The ocean front east of Kapoho appeared to be reduced, with a more diffuse laze plume this morning (upper left).” (Full-sized)
From Other Scientists

Larry O’Hanlon, Speaking of Geoscience blog, “Kīlauea: The science behind the headlines”

Great recap of everything I’ve been trying to cover: the eruption, how the USGS has tackled it, and what they’ve discovered so far. It includes comments from many of the scientists we’ve relied on in this eruption: Tina Neal, Don Swanson, Kyle Anderson, Weston Thelan, and also someone I haven’t heard of before, Angie Diefenbach who’s in charge of the drone team.

Current View of Pu’u O’o Crater

Hard to believe this hollow shell is the same dynamic Mini-Me on Kilauea’s shoulder that’s been erupting for 35 years, until it died April 30.

Here’s what it looked like in 2016, back when it was alive and vital.

It’s just a big scarred pile of rock, but I miss it. I haven’t seen all the wonderful places this eruption has destroyed, but this… this is a sight I’ll never forget.

June 1986. USGS photo of Pu’u O’o as I remember it. (After this fountaining phase ended, successive lava flows built up and leveled out the area around it into the classic “shield” shape.)
From Local News Outlets

*Pohoiki includes the all-important boat ramp that’s been used to rescue animals after lava flows to the ocean cut off the coast here on both sides… but also, sadly, it’s allowed some looters in and out of the area:

7/12/2018 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

(Above photo from Fire Dept July 12 overflight)


That tiny island that popped up today elicited a lot of comments, naturally.

Q: The start of the island was captured on this video, right? 

USGS: We don’t think so. That shot appears to be at the southern end of the ocean entry, while the ‘island’ is at the northern end.

Q: Possible new volcano?
USGS: No, it still shares Kilauea’s magmatic plumbing and is on the volcano’s flank, so it’s not a separate volcano in its own right. Just a small surface feature.

Q: Looks like an underwater [lava] tube feeding the island?
USGS: Possibly. There has to be some sort of insulated path for the lava to follow before it gets to the surface.

Q: [Can you explain the tiny island?]
USGS: One explanation is that it might be a bit of the flow that has inflated above the water, since there’s molten lava visible in the center.

Q: Is the island an underwater fissure or is it a lava tube exit from the ocean entry?
USGSThere aren’t any underwater fissures. This island is from a part of the lava flow that extends underwater away form the coastline.

Q: So this is a whole new island?
USGS: Yes, but it is small, and connected to the lava flow on the coast. It’s one continuous lava flow field, it’s just that part of it is underwater. If the flow remains active, the small island will probably connect to the coastline. If not, it might erode away due to wave action.

Q: How does that happen?
USGSThere is clearly lava that is active on the sea floor extending out from the coastline. We suspect that pressure within the underwater lava flow pushed the flow surface upward. This is called a tumulus — they are very common in lava flow fields.

HVO posted most of this timelapse yesterday, but the side-by-side comparison at the end is useful:

Comment on above video: Someone might want to retrieve that camera sometime soon! *lol*
USGS: Well, the camera is attached to the HVO building…

Q: [How close can tourists get to the lava channel?]
USGS: There are currently no approved viewing locations in the Puna area. They are being discussed by Civil Defense, but until they announce their creation, you can be fined and arrested for attempting to approach the lava channel. It is still a very dangerous environment!
[Other FB members mentioned lava boat tours, charted helicopter tours.]

Q: [My rather incoherent question about the explosion seen by @HotSeatHawaii crew yesterday— could water from Warm Pond’s spring get trapped by lava and carried a short distance before bursting out?]
USGS: The answer is, yes, they were already developed hot springs. They would have come through existing lava flows.
Someone else asked for a followup.
USGS: Our current thinking is that it’s caused by trapped water vapor and/or other gases, building up to the point where they burst from beneath a relatively thin lava crust and create the offshore explosion.

Q: Someone suggests using a “tomahawk missile” to clear the blockage that caused the flow to divert earlier this week:
USGS: We hope you’re joking with this one. In the past, attempts to bomb lava flows for diversion purposes have been very unsuccessful – there were attempts to do this on Mauna Loa in 1935 and 1942, which did not work [link to HVO’s Volcano Watch newsletter column: “Can Hawaiian lava flows be diverted?”]
Q: Followup saying that modern guided missiles can target much more precisely.
USGS: Regardless of accuracy, bombing a lava flow to remove an obstruction could easily cause more problems than it fixes, since we don’t know what’s going on in the subsurface. It might create more breakouts than it stops.

(Hey, at least he didn’t pull out the oft-repeated “just nuke it!” suggestion which sounds to me like an effective way to spread radioactive waste over a large area. Annnndd… back to the summit)

Q: [Is the LERZ eruption slowing down? Are these signs it’s drawing to an end?
USGSIt’s very difficult to say. Eruptions have a tendency to wax and wane. Overall, activity seems to be down (the low fountains are a sign of that), and that is consistent with the idea that the summit pressure is very low, but we can’t rule out the possibility of some renewal of activity.

[Looks like Facebook minder got the memo about the surges, which they were denyingy

Q: Fissure 8 was “raging” during our overflight— can an earthquake at the summit cause a change in LERZ rift zone eruption 3 hours later?
USGS: We’ve wondered if this was possible, and looked at time-lapse movies of the channel across several summit collapse events. We haven’t noticed 100% consistent behavior that suggests a connection, but there are times when there is a correlation within two or so hours.

Q: Could eruption continue indefinitely? Could it empty the magma chamber until the roof caves in?
USGSIn theory, we suppose that could happen, but magma has a strength — it’s not like water in that respect. That means it really takes a lot of pressure to drive magma down the rift zone to erupt. So the eruption should stop well before the magma chamber drained. As it is, the upper magma reservoir beneath the summit largely has drained, and that’s why the caldera floor has dropped so dramatically. The lower reservoir is much larger and very unlikely to empty.

Q: When will the satellite image used on your earthquake map be updated to show current crater?
USGS: That’s one of those things we’ll get to eventually, but it’s fairly low on the priority list right now. That graphic is a compilation of numerous cloud-free images, so it might take a while to get new could-free (and plume-free) images of the summit and lower East Rift Zone that can be used to recompile the image.

From Other Photographers & Social Media

Looks like the KE webcam at the observatory is back online:

Unconfirmed eyewitness report:

(EDIT: See #USGSVolcanoes’ take in the comments below.) . (ORIGINAL POST) ERUPTION UPDATE: Could the volcanic eruptions on our island be slowing down? That's the buzz today over at #HawaiiTracker, the Facebook group that has some of the best local information about the ongoing #Kilauea activity. . Here's what one of its moderators, @ryan.finlay, wrote earlier today: "Overall lava levels in the channels are down today again. Last night @andrewrichardhara reported that main channels were down 5 feet from the top of the channel walls. There have been surges following summit collapses which have become more apparent in recent days. The surges have been relatively short-lived and the channel height returns to previous levels shortly after. . Fissure 8 seems to be fountaining lower and lower with each passing day. . At the summit, the collapse event intervals are continuing to get further and further apart. Basically the subsidence is slowing as pressure returns to the summit area. . All this could be very good news for the lower east rift zone. We are now in day 72 of this eruption. 1955 went 88 days and we are of the belief that we are seeing signs that this eruption could be coming to an end!" . More than 50 miles away from the lava, and 20 miles downwind from Kilauea Summit, we in Pahala also have noticed a difference. We'll see the occasional cloud of dust and ash here, but it's nothing like May 15-29, a rainless period when new ash layers settled on us daily. Yes, earthquakes still shake us, and Lorie still gets vog headaches, but I (Joan) no longer need two inhalers to breathe. And the farm damage we noted earlier hasn't worsened significantly since our last Instagram update. Overall, our coffee trees look good, as you can see here. . Of course, it's too early to say what's happening with this eruption. But we'll gladly take signs of calmer activity, especially for those affected by the lava flows in Puna and the frequent earthquakes at Kilauea Summit! #FingersTightlyCrossed

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Janice Wei, who (I think?) works for the National Park Service, captured Fissure 8’s surge a few hours after yesterday afternoon’s summit collapse:

20180712 @ 08:30-09:30 HST Eruption Overflight . Lava levels in the upper part of the lava channel near Fissure 8 continued to lower throughout the morning while levels further downhill near Noni Farms / Papaya Farms showed lower heights. Multiple edges of the northern side of the lava channel appeared to have silver pahoehoe spillovers within Leilani Estates near Kahukai and Nohea Street. Fissure 8’s fountain also appeared lower, with fountaining contained within the massive cone. Fissure 22 showed no signs of activity. Overnight, the diverted channelized ʻaʻā flow west of Kapoho Crater advanced to the ocean destroying the Kua O Ka La Charter School and Ahalanui County Beach Park and establishing a robust, wide ocean entry. Despite no visible surface connection to the Fissure 8 channel, lava continues to ooze out at several points on the 6 km (3.7 mi) wide flow front into the ocean. A bursts of rupturing gas, steam, and lava were observed exploding 50ft offshore from Ahalanui County Beach Park as a spiraling plume of laze headed south. . My respect and best wishes go out to all who have been impacted by the eruption experience. There are no words to describe the amount of loss, personal tragedy, and stress our community has been experienced.
. *** Please visit my eruption relief fund in my profile link if you would like to purchase a print from my collection to help our displaced eruption evacuees. This gallery will continuously be updated, please check back for new photographs*** . #hawaii #kilauea #volcano #aerial #helicopter #eruption #fissure #leilani #kapoho #bigisland #geology

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