May 20: Changeover to “Fresher, Hotter Lava”

Monday night, Meteorologist Malika Dudley explains to the BBC how and why the lava erupting in Puna has changed, summarizing USGS findings:

May 20: Sunday Eve News/Images Roundup

Today’s big activities were: (1) massive lava fountains/flows in the Lower East Rift Zone/Lower Puna, entering the ocean at two points (2 modest ash explosions from Halema’uma’u crater (they looked to me like the 10,000 foot range). I’m going to stop worrying about whether they’re triggered by steam explosions or rockfalls.

Late afternoon HNN update includes footage of lava entry into ocean:

Oh good, Mick’s posted the day’s flyover. Noisy helicopter, incredible views:

Also, the lava livestream continues. Someone posted a screencap with USGS scientists working below Fissure 20, giving a sense of scale:

KITV archived HVO’s afternoon alert:

Continue reading May 20: Sunday Eve News/Images Roundup

May 19 USGS Press Conference on Kilauea’s Explosive Side

BigIslandVideoNews just put up an edited video of Saturday’s USGS press conference. My hero Don Swanson is there. It’s INCREDIBLY informative on what they think is happening at the summit and why they think it’s a repeat of the “much smaller eruptions” of 1924 and not larger ones.


Continue reading May 19 USGS Press Conference on Kilauea’s Explosive Side

May 18/19: Good Summary of Eruption to Date

USGS aerial view of lava flow, May 19. (full-sized)

Volcanologist Erik Klemetti pulls everything together for us, reviewing how the Leilani Fissure lava eruptions and the summit ash/steam eruptions have progressed.


Kilauea Eruption Continues: How Long Could It Last?

The eruption at Kīlauea is still captivating the nation, as it should because this volcano hasn’t behaving like this in almost a century. I thought I’d take a moment to step back and review of the main events so far and what it might all mean for Kīlauea and the people who live around the volcano. These eruptions are separated by a long way if you look at the satellite data and should almost be treated at two different events..

Also, here’s today’s CivilDefense briefing and BigIslandVideonews’ splice of afternoon USGS briefing with geologist Carolyn Parcheta plus recent video footage.

Taking from video  (basically telling us which fissures are doing what):

Continue reading May 18/19: Good Summary of Eruption to Date

Hazards in Hawaii: Most of the State Is Just Fine, Thanks

I wasn’t going to do this, because hazard information is best left to emergency officials and experts.

But I don’t want the videos and images I’m sharing to mislead people into thinking this event is larger-scale than it is. It’s overwhelming to those who have lost homes or had to evacuate. I don’t want to downplay what they’re going through. At the same time, major hazards are confined to a very limited area, yet news media are whipping this up to apocalyptic proportions and tossing out headlines with “fears” and “anxieties” and “major” to scare people. I don’t want to add to their hype. A volcanic eruption one can watch from a few miles away without dying is moderate, not major.

So let me try to give a rundown of Kilauea hazards, and why I think it’s not greedy nor crazy for officials to be urging tourists not to cancel their visits.

Hazards from the Current Kilauea Eruption

Continue reading Hazards in Hawaii: Most of the State Is Just Fine, Thanks

About the 1790 Kilauea Eruption

Here’s a summary and primary sources collected by HVO geologist Don Swanson on a 1790 explosive episode of Kilauea.

Also see USGS factsheet, “Explosive Eruptions at Kilauea, Hawai’i?” compiled prior to the 2018 eruptions. Diagram from this page:

3-part diagram: at left, a full lava lake with a long chimney of magma supplying it from below; in the middle is the same lava lake with the lava level dropping way down the chimney, below the water table, so that the upper walls of the chimney are cool enough for groundwater to seep in. Rocks falling from the chimney's walls are starting to choke it. The third and last phase of the diagram shows that groundwater has heated to steam and built up pressure below the rockfall until it builds up enough steam to shoot the blockage straight up out of the chimney.
USGS Diagram Explaining Cause of Steam Eruptions

The factsheet notes that “Many of Kilauea’s pre-1924 explosive eruptions that produced significant ash deposits probably happened when the volcano’s summit crater was so deep that its floor was below the water table, letting ground water seep in to form a lake.

If I’m understanding correctly, they’re saying that bigger explosions may happen when there’s a lake of water, i.e. more fuel to create steam.

Edited to add: HVO’s page outlining the history of Kilauea Caldera also goes into past explosive episodes. Final paragraph:

“Having pieced together the recent geologic past of Kīlauea, scientists conclude that the volcano will eventually return to a long period of mostly explosive activity, just as it did around 1500 CE. This future explosive period will probably accompany a significant decrease in the magma supply rate and be initiated by collapse of a new caldera to the depth of the water table, which today is about 615 m (2015 ft) below the present high point on the caldera rim. For now, effusive eruptions dominate Kīlauea.”

Note: that’s a new caldera, the much larger basin containing Halema’uma’u crater within it, and the vent that’s erupting ash explosions right now was a small lava lake covering only part of the floor of Halema’uma’u. Orders of magnitude different in terms of size. Also, changing the location of the active vent doesn’t mean the magma supply inside is dropping.

May 16: HVO Raises Aviation Color Code to Red

Media freaked out overnight when Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory issued a code red alert following a 12,000 foot tall ash explosion at the summit. The next morning they clarified:

USGS Volcanologist Michelle Coombs (EXCERPT):

So we’ve had some questions about what code red means. It sounds a little bit alarming, It’s really just to say that we see significant amounts of ash from this ongoing activity, and to warn aviators about that ash. It doesn’t mean that a really big eruption is imminent. it’s really just characterizing the aviation situation.


March 22, 2018: Volcano Watch

Ah, the innocent days before everything changed! HVO’s weekly Volcano Watch column on March 22 discusses the fluctuating levels of Kilauea’s lava lake, and new technology being used to measure it.

Also, as was usual for Volcano Watch posts before the current eruption, the end of that entry provides a status update for  Kīlauea, Puʻu ʻŌʻō, and Mauna Loa. This was the status quo before fissure 8 became the New Normal.