Wild weather, overflows and significant channel reorganization have made the Lower East Rift Zone more interesting today than those living near Bryson’s cinder pit would like.
Sunrise overflights by the USGS and @hotseathawaii spotted a torrential downpour centered directly over the upper lava flow (above). A rain gauge in Leilani Estates measured 9.22″ rainfall at 7am for the past 24 hours; another just a little farther away measured 6″ over the same span. All that updraft, convection and condensation even produced a modest… lavaspout…? captured on video (strong language warning):
The Kapoho end of the LERZ eruption was even more chaotic. Over the weekend, several non-USGS sources had reported that lava was starting to shift back to the south after passing Kapoho Crater, forming a slow-moving flow headed for Ahalanui Ponds (and sparing 3 of the 4 remaining Kapoho Beach Lots houses). This morning, HVO status updates confirmed the change: “The main lava channel has reorganized and is nearly continuous to the ocean on the south side of the flow, expanding the south margin by several hundred meters.” Also, while the ocean entry was still a very broad 2.5 mile front at sunrise, it’s started to coalesce a bit and shift towards the south:
However, blockages in the braided section of the lava river caused further havoc later in the day. HVO’s afternoon status update reported that, “Early this afternoon, observers reported multiple overflows occurring along both sides of the main lava channel, in an area extending from near the ‘Y’ intersection at Pohoiki Road eastwards to an area just west of Kapoho Crater. Overflows on the upper part of the channel did not extend beyond areas previously covered in lava. Overflows further down the channel have reached beyond the flow field, including one flow lobe that is moving northeast from the main channel towards Cinder Rd.”
[HVO afternoon status update cont’d] “Based on information from ground observers and morning and afternoon overflights, the lower part of the main lava channel has undergone significant reorganization. In particular, the channel that had been open near Four Corners is now mostly crusted over, and plumes from ocean entry are significantly reduced. It is likely this is due to a blockage that formed in the early morning in the main channel upstream of Kapoho Crater. Flow volumes coming out of Fissure 8 remain significant, and it is possible that changes in flow channels will continue to occur in the coming days.”
Meanwhile, up at the summit, it’s business as usual. This morning’s collapse event occurred at 9:20am, registering once again as 5.3:
USGS posted yesterday’s thermal map first thing this morning, plus a 2pm map today showing these changes:
The LERZ eruption continues with minor variations. This morning’s USGS overflight crew observed that Fissure 8’s fountain and lava level in the upper channel appeared to be slightly lower. However, the lava flow rate down at Kapoho Beach Lots —where there were only a few houses left, as of this morning — seems to have picked up slightly. Meanwhile, overflows spilling out from the constricted turn around Kapoho Crater have nearly reached Beach Rd about 0.2 miles north of Four Corners. Lava continues to enter the ocean along a very broad front, mostly on the northern side of the delta.
Fissure 22 is “sporadically spattering,” and its flow may have stalled.
The Italian Space Agency has posted a new satellite radar image of Kilauea Caldera, showing the ongoing subsidence across much of the crater floor (you may have to view full-sized version for the animation):
By the way, if anyone else was confused by recent Hawaii Tribune Herald articles that said SO2 levels had climbed tenfold at the summit, I checked with @USGSVolcanoes, who suggested a minor mixup. That increase is occurring down in the Lower East Rift Zone. At the summit, according to Kyle Anderson during today’s media conference call, SO2 levels have dropped to the level they were before the lava lake first appeared.
Today’s entry is going to be a challenge, because my computer chose a holiday to go pau. Arthritis and dodgy vision versus voice dictation and tablet — who will win?
Today’s eruption summary
The LERZ eruption continues pretty much as usual, with a few minor embellishments to keep field crews on their toes.
Today’s HVO update noted that Fissure 8 “has been pulsing with more vigorous output in 1-3 minute bursts.” When asked for clarification, USGSVolcanoes replied, “No true indication of change.” F8 continues to send lava downriver to Kapoho, where lava is oozing out along most of the broad front and encroaching on Kapoho Ag and Beach Lots properties.
Fissure 22 continues to spatter intermittently and produce a short, sluggish flow:
Wednesday, July 4, 2018, 5:45 am – Kilauea's east rift zone overflight: Fissure 22 continues to spatter bits of lava…
…and it still looks like a kid’s science experiment. (It’s hard to tell from overhead, but it’s a perfect steep-sided cone.)
Remember how the lava channel clogged up temporarily around the bend at Kapoho Crater yesterday? It’s still having problems:
I lucked out this morning and caught @HotSeatHawaii ‘s sunrise overflight live, which offered a good view this. Part of the lava is going wide instead of making the sharp turn, though it joins back up around the bend. (More photos below.)
Today’s summit collapse/explosion occurred at 10:19 AM HST. The view was fairly clear today, and the rockfalls were spectacular:
On June 26, 2018, Deputy Scientist-in-Chief of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, Steve Brantley, gave a ten-minute slideshow at the Puna Community Meeting in Pahoa. Video of the meeting is posted here. Steve Brantley’s talk starts at 35:00 in that video.
BigIslandVideoNews excerpted half of his talk in this video, which they overlaid with footage from a June 24 USGS drone overflight of the summit:
Below is my transcript of the complete talk, including images that match or approximate his slides.
Steve Brantley (USGS):
Hello, everybody. Thank you for coming out.
I’ll just describe a few things occurring in the Lower East Rift Zone and then summarize the activity up at the summit at the very end.
Fissure 8 is status quo. Today’s HVO Kiluaea status report says its cone is now 180feet tall. Its flow front has broadened southwards, widening to two miles, moving south on shore as well as continuing to expand offshore (lava delta acreage: ~405). The main channel/ocean entry remains on the southern side of the front, with minor entries in a 1-kilometer zone.
The lava Fissure 22 is weakly active; no activity observed at 16/18.
According to Mike Zoeller (UHI) at today’s 11AM conference call, the lava delta is advancing at less than 50m/day; it was 200/day a week ago. The southern edge of the flow is a kilometer from Ahalanui Beach Park. Over the weekend, he observed top lava speeds of 25kph (15.5mph); Leslie Gordon (USGS) saw it max out at 35kph (21.75mph) last Friday night.
After yesterday’s collapse explosion at 4:12, seismicity dropped from a high of 25-35 quakes an hour down to less than 10, but had started to creep up again and was averaging 30 by dawn. On the livestream, I observed clouds of ash/dust in the crater’s interior at various times during the day. Today’s collapse explosion occurred at 5:03pm, equivalent of a 5.3, ash-poor plume rising less than 2000 feet.
The new news today is that HVO/USGS downgraded Kilauea’s FAA warning level:
“Since late May, these collapse/explosion events have rarely produced significant ash plumes rising more than 10,000 feet above sea level where they can pose a significant hazard to aviation. For this reason, HVO is reducing the aviation color code from RED to ORANGE.”
I almost feel like the recent code downgrades for Kilauea and Mauna Loa were a tacit rebuttal of the scaremongers trying to conjure an island-wide catastrophe out of hot air. But I suppose I’m being as irrational as they are. There were specific numbers and criteria for both these status changes.
Down at the LERZ, status quo continues. Fissure 8’s lava fountains are vigorous but seldom peep over the cone they’ve built (now 180′). Minor overflows spill out near the head of the lava river without going far. The ocean entry is concentrated mostly at the main lava channel channel near the south end of the lava delta, but some fans out along a 1km stretch.
Today’s collapse explosion went off at 4:12pm, M5.3, partly hidden on the livestream by a dust cloud from rockfalls 4 minutes earlier. Just as yesterday, I noticed the “collapse explosion” started with a visible camera shake, unlike earlier rockfalls that made me think, “Waaaaait— was that it?” The explosion itself didn’t send up much dust past the rim of Halema’uma’u. About a minute later, dust from caldera wall rockfalls (I think?) blew past.
Below: Rockfalls, dust cloud, then I fast forwarded to the collapse explosion.
Today’s USGS Kilauea update gave additional details for yesterday’s explosion which probably apply to today’s as well: “Seismicity dropped abruptly from a high of 25-30 earthquakes per hour (many in the magnitude 2-3 range) prior to the collapse explosion down to 10 or less earthquakes per hour afterwards. Within 4 hours seismicity began to creep up again averaging about 25 earthquakes per hour by daybreak (June 24)” i.e. about 14 hours later.
Fissure 8 just keeps on going, as if it’s settling in for a Pu’u O’o eruption rather than a 1955/1960 eruption. Once again, there’s minor overflows upriver that don’t go anywhere. The ocean entry is mostly via the channel on the south side of the lava delta, but there’s also trickles along a kilometer-wide stretch of shore. Fissure 22 showed incandescence but no lava during the USGS morning overflight.
The USGS was skimpy on images today but gave us a treat: a timelapse of what they call “lava boats.”
Here’s their explanation: “Geologists captured this time-lapse video of the perched lava channel issuing from fissure 8 on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone. Rafts of accreted lava move down stream and look like boats moving down a river. These are termed lava balls or lava boats and form when portions of the fissure 8 cone or levees break away and are rafted down stream. As they move along in the channel, additional lava can cool to their surface to form accretionary lava balls.”
After lots of minor earthquakes and rockfalls that sent up small plumes of dust, the daily summit “collapse explosion” occurred at 4:34pm. It sent up a 2000-foot plume, once again equivalent to 5.3 earthquake. Again, I couldn’t resist a video capture:
The runup to today’s explosion was impressive. There was one cascade of dust and rubble all the way around the walls that I would’ve taken for the day’s explosive event, except that there was no camera shake beforehand. Doubtless it was one of these:
There’s not much news today, so let’s hitch a ride with the Hawaii County Fire Department and follow the lava river to the ocean. But first….
More on Lava Boats
I’d asked about the “lava boats” before that video was posted: “What’s forming those so-called “lava bergs”? Are they chunks off the sides of the levees? Do they indicate erosion/undermining of lava channel’s banks analogous to meanders of an H20 river, with risk of wearing through?”
@USGSVolcanoes offered some additional info in response: “They are chunks of the sides of levees as well as bits of the cone. As lava moves by them in the channel, they can be coated, dislodged, etc. Different than water – lava cools against cooler surfaces (channel sides) & we’ve started to see portions roofing over (forming tubes).” And when someone else asked if the whole 8 mile channel might become a lava tube: “It’s a possibility, but not necessarily guaranteed. It’s easier in places where the channel is already narrow.”
Which doesn’t answer my question about erosion/meanders, but looking back, they answered another question about braided lava channels on June 11 with this paper, which emphasizes that viscosity is a major factor in lava flows, whereas in H2O it’s particles in water.
Someone else’s Q on “lava boats”: ” Are these what’s floating beyond the ocean entry? USGS: That’s a different process. The chunks floating beyond the ocean entry are bits of very bubble-rich lava-rock. When lava enters the sea there is sometimes an explosive process that expels rocks – the heat of the rock combined with the amount of bubbles causes these pieces to float for a while. Eventually, they cool, fill with water, and sink.
Awkward place to stick this, but so I don’t forget: this week’s HVO “Volcano Watch” newsletter focused on “Mauna Loa Back to Normal.“
More USGS on Social Media
Q: What will happen if the summit collapse continues? USGS: There are several options: It could enlarge #Halemaumau to a point and then the explosive activity could stop, or it could enlarge the crater and the explosions could change character.
Aha! It turns out the USGS posted photos today only on Facebook. Someday when things calm down, they need to comb their social media channels and make sure they’ve archived everything on the HVO website and/or USGS media library.
If the USGS is too busy to post photos, the Hawai’i County Fire Department takes up the slack. (Unlike Facebook, Flickr is Google-able). Today Civil Defense shared their latest photo album, and once again I’m impressed by the definition of the camera they’re using compared to everybody else.
A small sample:
Looking southeast towards the “Y” junction at Pokoihi Rd, Kapoho Rd and 132 (Google Map) with Puna Geothermal Ventures in the background on the left:
Left and right, as different as night and day:
A disagreeable neighbor:
Looking towards the new lava delta:
Past the Lava Rooster house (near that mast):
Past the Cinder Pit:
Around Kapoho Crater (and former Green Lake):
To the sea. (Note upwelling.)
Effects extend offshore…
So far, so lucky. (Note the 1960 lava flow with roads on it.)
(warning: helicopter noise)
Sorry, got carried away. But there’s another 98 photos/videos in that album, including video all along the route and detailed views of houses, farms, even a dock.
A lot of the landscape resembles a hell-like atmosphere. The stench of sulfur, the rumble of the lava boil, and death as far as the eye can see. It's both magical and extraordinarily sad. #KilaueaEruptionpic.twitter.com/XWzQcbDX4u
Fissure 8 continues as usual, sending its lava river down to the ocean at Kapoho, with a “dominant ocean entry on the south edge of the flow front…producing a large laze plume.” Minor, brief overflows upstream aren’t traveling past previous lava flows. Fissure 6 is inactive; 16 incandescent; 22 woke up and was fountaining weakly during the USGS morning overflight.
I spent this afternoon putting together a gif of the last 28 days of HVO wide angle Kilauea images, using screencaps I’ve taken supplemented with screengrabs from the same webcam archived by Hawaii247:
In today’s digest:
Video capture of today’s summit explosion (warning: dark)
Meanwhile, Kilauea continues to follow the recent status quo, summed up in HVO’s afternoon Kilauea update.
The Lower East Zone’s unnamed giant booms in its cone, fountains rising to 165 feet, lava cascading out of it at 15mph.
USGS: Pu’u continues to make bid for naming. (Full-sized)Fissures 16/18 keep oozing or spattering. “Incandescence (visible in PGcam to the left of fissure 8 most nights) and mild spattering were observed from Fissure 6.”
bLet’s see. Are you there tonight, Spot?
“The flow field is relatively stable with little change to its size and shape for the past few days…”
“Observations are also collected on a daily basis from cracks in the area of Highway 130; no changes in temperature, crack width, or gas emissions have been noted for several days…”
At the summit, the daily subsurface explosion occured at 6:26am HST. “The resulting gas plume, reported to be brief and nearly devoid of ash, was observed to 5,000 to 7,000 ft above sea level.”
This is the eighth day in a a row the daily event has released the energy of a 5.3 earthquake. For the month of June, they’ve all fallen in a range of 5.0 to 5.4.
“After this morning’s explosive event, seismicity at Kīlauea’s summit is slowly increasing. Inward slumping of the rim and walls of Halemaʻumaʻu continues in response to ongoing subsidence at the summit.”
Below the cut: a little local news, one of Mick Kalber’s best overflights of the Fissure 8/Kapoho area, and the work of a must-see photographer.