This is my transcript of the July 2, 2018 11am USGS press briefing, which covered lava-created thunderstorms, whirlwinds, and rain; laze-induced lightning; and lava boats. Additionally, Mike Zoellner mentioned findings of a sonar expedition to measure the lava extending on the ocean floor.
Soundfile is archived here. BigIslandVideoNews has also posted most of it, overlaid with recent video footage:
Leslie Gordon, USGS Public Affairs
Jessica Ferracane, Hawaii Volcanoes Nat’l Park Public Affairs
Robert Ballard, NWS
Mike Zoeller, HVO & Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, UHI
Brian Shiro, seismologist, USGS/HVO
Transcript note: I omit salutations/pleasantries, jumping straight to news and information. Also I usually summarize questions to provide just enough context for USGS responses.
Fissure 8 gushes on unchallenged and unchanged, while Fissure 22 — remember the chief subject of Lavacam?— has started spattering 50-80m and sending out a modest lava flow headed NE along the edge of previous flows.
Down at the coast, lava continues to ooze out from under much of the northern part of the delta along a broad front, with “pasty” lava squeezing out in several places along Kapoho Beach Lots.
As of 8:30pm 11pm HST, I’m waiting for confirmation of the next summit collapse/explosion.
Besides Fissure 22 reactivating in earnest, the news today is that new digital elevation maps and satellite images give us a clear view of the subsidence of Kilauea Caldera around Halema’uma’u, which has begun to show in livestream and webcam views lately.
First of all, USGS seismologist Kyle Anderson posted this color-coded slide of caldera ground deformation in his Thursday evening talk:
Next, the Italian Space Agency’s trusty Cosmo-Skymed satellite has sent us another radar survey of Kilauea. Even though I’d observed dramatic subsidence of the caldera floor in recent livestream and webcam images, the last frame of this animation made me gasp:
We are well on our way to a nested caldera, with Halema’uma’u taking up over half the larger caldera floor. I’m hoping those earthquakes indicate where the edge of the new inner caldera will be, but I’m not a geologist. Here’s those scarps they mentioned, posted a few days ago:
Last but not least, the USGS posted this map of the fracturing around Halema’uma’u. Note that the diagram is projected onto a satellite photo of the pre-May caldera, so there’s a ghostly image of the Halema’uma’u we remember in that dark gray area.
So there you have it. Who would’ve thought the draining of the lava lake, which was minuscule compared to the whole summit caldera, would’ve had a domino effect this large?
Fissure 8 continues to behave much as it has for the last month or so, looking ever more like a Mordor backdrop:
Today’s official HVO Kilauea update is a copy-and-paste of yesterday’s, apart from this small addition describing the lava delta: “lava is moving beneath the crust and into [the] still-molten interior of earlier flows before it enters the sea in multiple oozeouts.” Like this:
Unfortunately, some of those “oozeouts” are occurring at the edge of Kapoho Beach Lots as well. At least one home burned today, perhaps more.
Check the Hawaii County Fire Department photos later in this post (or the Bruce Omori photos at the end of the post) to see what the slow-moving expansion into Kapoho Beach Lots looks like right now.
Kilauea’s summit is changing visibly day by day. Today’s collapse explosion came at 2:51pm, 31 hours after the previous event. Mag 5.3, as usual, with a 500-foot ash-poor plume (captured on livestream). It was somewhat obscured by dust from multiple rockfalls 3 minutes earlier. Here’s a before-and-after:
Exactly 8 weeks after the Lower East Rift Zone eruption began in Leilani Estates on May 3, Fissure 8 continues to gush unabated. Its fountains are contained within its 55-meter (180 ft) cone, and this morning’s overflight showed no active overflows.
For the past day or so, the lava river has crusted over on the last half mile to the ocean. This has allowed lava seeps, described by Steve Brantley in his Tuesday evening talk, to creep into still-molten earlier flows on the northern side of the lava delta. This “lava seepage” is oozing into the ocean along a broad front, encroaching onto what’s left of Kapoho Beach Lots on the northern edge of the flow:
At Kilauea’s summit, the most recent collapse explosion occurred at 4:49am this morning, sending up an ash-poor plume about 1000 feet, with the energy release of a 5.3 earthquake. The sides of Halema’uma’u continue to collapse inward and downwards, especially during each explosive event.
The big news today is that the National Park Service and USGS arranged a brief escorted tour for local news media to the rim of Kilauea Caldera, which has been closed to visitors for 49 days. There was also a half hour press briefing.
So today there’s suddenly a lot more videos and views of what the caldera looks like:
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.
Here’s an excellent 13-minute retrospective of Kilauea’s eruptions from the early 20th century right through June 25, 2018.
Now back to the present.
Today’s Eruption Summary
It’s 11:30pm HST, and it looks like today’s “collapse explosion” is going to happen tomorrow. Are the explosion spacing themselves out more now? Too early to tell. There has been always some variation in their timing, despite the fact that it feels like we’re watching a magmatic equivalent of Old Faithful.
Meanwhile, Fissure 8 continues exactly what it has for— what, a month now? Fountains contained within its 180-foot spatter cone continue to pour out an 8-mile river of lava. Occasional spillovers near the head of the river usually don’t go past the margin of previous flows in this eruption. Fissure 22 is once again showing “incandescence” and pushing out small, short lava flows.
The ocean entry area fans out across a 1-km stretch of coast, but the bulk of the lava is dumping into the sea from Fissure 8’s main channel. Unfortunately, the northern margin of the lava flow has reactivated, too, pushing further into what’s left of Kapoho Beach Lots community.
Eruption Update for June 27 at 4PM. Due to active lava near houses in Kapoho, access by residents is not allowed. No additional houses have been destroyed at this time.
Kilauea’s double eruption continues with no significant changes: Fissure 8 is still pumping out lava, and the summit is continuing to settle. The ocean entry has expanded to two miles wide, with its southern edge creeping south just onshore.
Here’s a timelapse of all the USGS lava flow maps since lava started moving away from fissures in May:
Fissure 22 is sputtering and sending out tepid little lava flows that don’t go anywhere, while Fissures 16/18 were “incandescent” during the morning overflight.
June 26th’s collapse explosion waited a full 29+ hours, just to keep us on our toes, occurring at 10:41pm HST. The energy release was 5.4 with a 1000-foot ash plume.
Yesterday’s Mick Kalber Overflight:
While the daily collapse explosions at Kilauea’s summit haven’t sent up much ash lately, they’re still giving off a voggy burp of sulfur dioxide. And some of the ash that fell earlier is still blowing around and irritating communities at the southwest end of the island:
The big news today is that the USGS posted new drone footage of Halema’uma’u Crater.
Full video below. If you want extra drama, here’s a version with a soundtrack added.
HVO/Jaggar Museum are the low dun-colored buildings (same color as the bluff they’re sitting on, well-camouflaged) swing into view at the top of the screen around 2:30 and are middle of screen at 2:40 just before it shifts to a new view. (The larger, more conspicuous buildings near the beginning of the video are the old Kilauea Military Camp and the Volcano Golf Country Club).
Here’s an aerial photo of Halema’uma’u from April 13, 2018 for comparison, with Jaggar Museum/HVO at the top of those stairstep bluffs in the background, middle right. Here’s another view of the two buildings.
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.