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:
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.
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):
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.