July 26: 2018 Kīlauea Eruption Three Months On

Three months ago today, shortly before 5 pm on May 3, lava began to erupt from one of several cracks that had opened in Leilani Estates in the Lower Puna district of the Big Island of Hawai’i. This followed several days of earthquakes indicating magma moving downrift from Puʻu ʻŌʻō, after its floor collapsed and its lava drained away overnight on April 30.

At first, the fissures spattered and sputtered, with most of the lava falling on both sides of the vents and building up ramparts (walls). Individual fissures erupted for several hours at a time, then died out. Some restarted, others simply steamed. A few sent out sluggish lava flows, claiming a few houses.

On May 19, the eruption began in earnest. Most of the old, stale lava stored in the rift zone since the 1955 and 1960 eruptions had been pushed out, and fresh, hot, runny lava from Puʻu ʻŌʻō began pouring out of vents, sending the first lava flows down to the sea (See the Honolulu CivilBeat livestream from that day, timestamp 6:03). Lava reached the ocean before dawn on May 20.

While Fissure 8 had originally opened on May 5, it was just one of many attempts for all that magma coming down the rift zone to find the most convenient exit. (Magma can reshape its own plumbing, just as we’ve seen lava do on the surface.) Fissure 8 reactivated again on May 28, and within a few days became the dominant vent for this eruption. Its lava flow reached Kapoho Bay the evening of June 3, and had covered the bay within 36 hours.

Kapoho Bay Before and After filled with Lava
USGS overflights of Kapoho Bay, morning of June 3 and June 5.

All that magma exiting the summit caused the lava lake at the summit to drain away, then Halemaʻumaʻu fell into it and started enlarging, and eventually much of the floor of Kīlauea caldera began to subside as well. The collapses were explosive at first, then, after the lava lake’s conduit had been thoroughly blocked by rubble, the collapses settled into a regular pattern.

So here we are. The LERZ eruption has added nearly 800 acres to the island, covering lower Puna with 34.0 square kilometers (13.1 square miles) of lava. We’ve almost come to take for granted this extraordinary eruption, which has dramatically reshaped the summit of Kīlauea and produced more lava in 3 months than Puʻu ʻŌʻō did in 35 years.

Today’s Eruption Summary
July 26, 2018. USGS: “Fissure 8 continues to erupt lava into the channel leading northeastward from the vent. This north-facing view of the cone, vent, and proximal channel was taken during HVO’s overflight this morning.” (Full-sized)

HVO’s volcanologists have told us that eruptions like this wax and wane— Puʻu ʻŌʻō certainly did, sometimes pausing for weeks— and that part of what makes Fissure 8 extraordinary is that it’s sustained such a high volume of lava effusion for so long. Today, it’s finally showed signs of weakening— maybe? The USGS reported that its lava flow seemed sluggish and that lava levels are down in the lower part of the channel. The flow margin remains stalled a mere tenth of a mile from Pohoiki’s boat ramp.

July 26, 2018. USGS: “At the coast, the lava flow in the Ahalanui area remains less than 0.1 miles from the Pohoiki boat ramp at Isaac Hale Park (left of center in this photo). The active ocean entry is a few hundred yards east (right) of this photograph.” (Full-sized)

Today’s summit collapse occurred at 12:09 pm, energy equivalent of 5.3 as usual. That’s 53 hours since the previous Type A event, the longest interval so far. Clouds and fog obscured the view, but FWIW here’s my video captures of the HVO tower and northeast caldera rim livestreams.

USGS: “As of 2:00 p.m. HST, July 26, 2018, the lava flow margins had not expanded since the previous map, so no red areas (indicating expansion) appear on this map.” (Full-sized)

USGS Final Media Conference Call

BigIslandVideoNews posted most of it:

Full archived here.

From Other Agencies

I haven’t linked to Civil Defense alerts in a while. They’re issuing one a day, substantially the same apart from a paragraph summarizing USGS eruption update. Here’s today’s.

Mayor Harry Kim’s office tweeted that they’re changing the format of Tuesday Lower East Rift Zone eruptions meetings to make more time for affected residents to have their say (instead of being talked at by officials).

Civil Defense posted an album of yesterday’s Hawaii County Fire Department overflight.

HCFD July 25 Overflight photos

Offshore “upwelling”:


I double-checked with USGS to make sure I didn’t write my own assumptions as fact. What a gift, that I could get almost immediate feedback from an expert in the field:

So yeah, that’s hot water, presumably over the edge of the flow underwater.


Pohoiki/Isaac Hale Park.


Significantly lower lava levels.


Perched pond and Fissure 8. Again, use houses at right for sense of scale (those trees are not short).


Rest of album here (34 photos, one video)

From Local News Outlets
Mick Kalber July 26 Overflight

I missed the @hotseathawaii overflight this morning, but Mick’s camera from same flight has better resolution. You can really see the lava isn’t as moving as quickly in the lower parts of the channel near Kapoho Crater.

Here’s Bruce Omori’s notes and 11 photos from the same flight, including:

Thursday, July 26, 2018, 6:00 am – Kilauea's lower east rift zone overflight: Beloved Pohoiki survived another night! The bulk of the lava appears to be moving away from the southern end of the ocean entry.

Posted by Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery on Thursday, July 26, 2018

Part of the braided area is crusted over:

Thursday, July 26, 2018, 6:00 am – Kilauea's lower east rift zone overflight: A slightly tighter shot of the area of…

Posted by Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery on Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday, July 26, 2018, 6:00 am – Kilauea's lower east rift zone overflight: A view showing the new coastline stretching from Pohoiki to Kapoho.

Posted by Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery on Thursday, July 26, 2018

Rest of pics plus notes on lavaupdate blog.

USGS Q&A on Social Media

Q (Jason Fifield): So re: the longer interval, what does that possibly mean is now happening below the summit?

USGS: A lot of discussion happening about that right now. There were a couple of larger earthquakes yesterday afternoon that may have relieved some of the pressure.

USGS: Thank you. Our HVO field crews also noted this on the morning overflight and we will be checking it out on the ground and via drone throughout the day.

Q: Flow rate seems down?

USGS: We don’t yet have specific updated calculations for flux rate over the last couple of days. Field geologists have noted slower flow, but the channel is still open to ponded area near Kapoho Crater.

Q: [Are you monitoring the lava feeding the island offshore? (various speculations and questions about F8 ebb & flow)?]

USGS: There is no lava feeding an island off shore. That was a blip in the memory of this eruption. Within a day it was connected to land above sea level. All lava in the lower East Rift Zone is currently originating from fissure 8 – including all lava flowing into the ocean.
We do not have a conclusive understanding of the “surges” that have sometimes been seen from Fissure 8 after summit Type A events. It doesn’t happen every time – it didn’t two days ago during our last one.

Q: [Is there underwater monitoring of ocean entry? What is effect on marine life?]

USGS: There is not continuous monitoring of ocean around lava entry. There have been some research during this change of eruptive behavior by marine biology group at University of Hawaii Hilo. They’re better suited to answer – we’re more knowledgable about the rocks and magma dynamics.

Q: [48 hours since last Type A?]

USGS: The repose period between type A events is now the 2nd longest. The longest was about 50 hours. There were two strong earthquakes yesterday afternoon, which may have relieved some of the pressure.

Other Photographers & Social Media

20180726 @ 09:00-10:00 HST – Eruption Overflight . Fissure 8 continues to erupt large amounts of lava within large, braided channels downstream toward the ocean. Fissure 8 has been changing its shape and size, becoming more of a circular shape instead of a slit. Some photos depict a darker flow on the thinner, northern channel near the intersection of Halekamahina Road and Noni Farms Road on Highway 132 caused by channel blockages. The slower, northern channel near Halekamahina appeared to be traveling at speeds around 5mph, while the southern channel continued to flow around 10mph. Lava channel levels closer to Kapoho cone seemed much lower than previously observed last week. A stalled a’a flow remains north at 0.1mi away from Pohoiki boat ramp, just shy of the parking lot with small amounts of blue/grey fume at surrounding flow edges. Generous deposits of black sand have replaced a beloved surf spot, “Bowls”. The majority of coastal flows between Pohoiki and south of Cape Kumukahi were less active with only a few, small plumes of laze indicating ocean entry. No marine life was spotted while tracing the 760 acre lava delta formed along the eastern coastline. The total flow area is 13.1 square miles according to USGS’ latest update. . 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 if you would like to purchase a print from my profile link to help our displaced eruption evacuees. This gallery will continuously be updated, please check back for new photographs. *** . #fissure #kilauea #volcano #bigisland #hawaii #lava #lavaflow #lavachannel #geology #pohoiki @hawaiicommunityfoundation #puuhonuaopuna

A post shared by Andrew Richard Hara (@andrewrichardhara) on

Instagram isn’t letting me link to AndrewRichardHara’s other photos in this batch; the eighth one has a really good view of exactly where the lava is at the edge of Isaac Hale Park.

And G Brad Lewis has posted a highlight reel of his best photos of this eruption on his website.

Moving Forward on this blog

And me? I’m finishing this post around 1 am, which is early for these digests. I usually wait until all the news outlets, photographers, and burning-the-midnight-oil scientists have finished posting for the day.

Which is why this blog is going to fall back to a more… relaxed? format. I expect there will plenty of things that catch my interest, so that I’ll still post several times a week. But these comprehensive digests are going to a once-a-week format, probably Saturday or Sunday, and I may be a little more discriminating about which headlines are newsy enough to include.

Mahalo for following me as I follow this fascinating eruption.

F8, June 2018. Own work. (Oil painting, first I’ve done outside of exercises for an adult art class)