June 23: Pele’s Latest Trick – Lava Boats (Lavabergs)

Today’s Eruption Summary

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….

USGS: “On June 23, 2018 at 4:32 p.m. HST after approximately 17 hours of elevated seismicity, a collapse explosion occurred at the summit if Kīlauea. The energy released by the event was equivalent to a magnitude 5.3 earthquake. During the intense shaking, rockfalls cascaded down the northern margin of the caldera wall just below Uwēkahuna Bluff sending rock dust into the air.” (Full-sized)
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 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.

USGS: “Fissure 8 fountain, as observed from the Leilani Estates subdivision. USGS-HVO crews noted that during the overnight hours, the lava fountain typically reached heights similar to the height of the cinder cone, with sporadic bursts sending lava higher than the cone (as pictured in this image).
USGS image taken June 23, 2018, around 12:46 AM.” (Full-sized)
USGS: “HVO field crews are on site in the lower East Rift Zone, tracking the fountains, lava flows, and spattering from Fissure 8 as conditions allow and are reporting information to Hawaii County Civil Defense. Crews also make measurements and observations of ground cracks in the area, as shown in this image taken near fissure 9.
USGS image taken during the afternoon of June 22, 2018.” (Full-sized)
USGS: “View of the lava channel from ground level, with the Kapoho Crater in the upper left. The active channel is the horizontal silver-colored line in the upper third of the photo. Lava travels about 5 miles per hour in this area.
USGS image taken during the afternoon of June 22, 2018.” (Full-sized)
From Other Scientists

From Fissure 8 to the Sea with HCFD

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:

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

Left and right, as different as night and day:

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

A disagreeable neighbor:

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

Looking towards the new lava delta:

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

Past the Lava Rooster house (near that mast):

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

Past the Cinder Pit:

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

Around Kapoho Crater (and former Green Lake):

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

To the sea. (Note upwelling.)

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

New land.

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

Effects extend offshore…

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

So far, so lucky. (Note the 1960 lava flow with roads on it.)

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

(warning: helicopter noise)

06/19/18 Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

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.

From News Outlets

HNN is taking the weekend off; they’ve more than earned it. (Today they just altered a headline and called it a day: “637 homes destroyed by lava amid explosions, eruptions on the Big Island“) But KHON2 took up the slack:

Moment of Aloha

While we wait for daily explosions, the people living on Kilauea endure earthquake swarms, as Dispatches from Volcano describes today. Also, he waxes eloquent on the topic of naming Fissure 8.

STill More Photography/Videos

First up, Mick Kalber getting up close and personal with whatever it’s called. Good views of a spillover, Fissure 22 incandescence, and the red lava at the ocean entry. (Blog post on this overflight)

Here’s that spillover with streets labeled:

Other pros are still hitching rides with Paradise Helicopters and/or the National Guard:

Fissure #8, new Pu'u 'O'o? (06/21/2018)

A post shared by Janice W. (@janice_weicool) on

A lava sun. A sunset behind gas plume from fissure #8.

A post shared by Janice W. (@janice_weicool) on

(East is left in the Kilauea livecam)

June 22: Four Weeks of Changes at Kilauea Summit

Today’s Eruption Summary
USGS: ” Lava continues to erupt at a high rate from Fissure 8 and flow within the established channel to the ocean. No channel overflows were observed during this morning’s overflight. The fountains have built a horseshoe-shaped cone as lava fragments are intermittently hurled onto and over the growing rim. Lava exiting the cone forms a series of standing waves in the uppermost section of the channel.” (Full-sized)

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.

USGS: “Halema’uma’u crater at 8:30 a.m., view is toward the south. Several benches are clearly visible within the crater. The benches are sections of the former crater rim and adjacent Kīlauea caldera floor that have incrementally dropped or slumped into the crater as the summit area has subsided since early May.” (Full-sized)

Seismicity at the summit was “elevated overnight” according to today’s only HVO status update at 8:45 am. There appeared to be a lot of rockfalls/isolated slippages on the livestream today, especially on the left rim, but the really-truly “collapse explosion” (as USGS is now calling them) occurred at 6:52pm, 5.3 energy equivalent, 500 foot ash plume.

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:

Halema’uma’u Crater, May 24-June 22. Animation of screencaps from USGS/HVO Kilauea Summit wide-angle webcam. (Full-sized)


In today’s digest:
  • Video capture of today’s summit explosion (warning: dark)
  • USGS Questions and answers
  • crisp LERZ photos/videos from HCFD
  • Local news stations turning from lava to recovery
  • Double dose of Mick Kalber overflight vids
  • Usual striking images from great photographers

In case you missed it:
Transcriptions of June 19 Steve Brantley Presentation at Puna Community MeetingJune 21 Conference Call

Continue reading June 22: Four Weeks of Changes at Kilauea Summit

June 19: Magnificent Desolation

Six weeks in, this eruption can still take one’s breath away.

USGS: During the helicopter overflight on June 18, crews captured this image of the growing Halema‘uma‘u crater viewed to the southeast. With HVO and Jagger Museum sitting on the caldera rim (right side, middle where the road bends to the left) it is easier to comprehend the scale of subsidence at the summit. The estimated total volume loss is about 260 million cubic meters as of June 15th. (Full-sized)

USGS: “Fissure 8 vigor increased overnight June 18-19 with lava fountains reaching up to 60 m (200 ft). Spatter built up the cone to the east and into the channel. In this photograph, spatter lands on the east cone and flows downward.” (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

Today’s summit explosion came early, 5:05am HST, with a weak ash/gas plume that reached 5,000 feet above sea level (Kilauea is ~4,000). Every one of these explosions means more downdropping and subsidence, resulting in the colossal changes we’re seeing to Halema’uma’u.

In the Lower East Rift Zone, Fissure 8 climbed back up to 200 foot fountains last night, beefing up the sides of its cone with spatter (but not adding much more height).  This morning the river was full to the top of its levees with a few minor breakouts.

Some of these overflows made it past the edge of earlier flows. One went north up Pohoiki Road a short distance before stalling, while another crept northwest along Luana Street. Fissure 6, 15, 16 are “oozing” lava and steaming. Near the ocean, the channel has forked to create two ocean entries, but the only place where it’s still covering more land is a creeping southwest edge of the lava flow in the Vacationland area.

(Above vimeo channel is nothing but daily ocean entry videos.)

More USGS Images and Videos

Continue reading June 19: Magnificent Desolation

June 17: Father’s Day

Thanks, Dad. I was supposed to be giving you presents today!

November 1992. Halema’uma’u from Jaggar Museum. Photograph by Winston N. Brundige.

HVO approved:


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?

LERZ webcam screengrab, early morning Jun 18.


“The flow field is relatively stable with little change to its size and shape for the past few days…”

USGS: “Occasionally, minor amounts of lava briefly spill over the lava channel levees. The spill overs are the shiny gray lobes along the channel margins… View to the east, with the plume in the upper right showing the location of the ocean entry.” (Full-sized)

“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.”

USGS: “Inward slumping of the rim and walls of Halema‘uma‘u continues in response to ongoing subsidence at the summit. Sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano’s summit have dropped to levels that are about half those measured prior to the onset of the current episode of eruptive activity. This gas and very minor amounts of ash are being transported downwind, with small bursts of ash and gas accompanying intermittent explosive activity. The view is from Volcano House, looking toward the west.” (Full-sized)

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.

Continue reading June 17: Father’s Day

June 16: Things Moving Sideways or Down Quite Rapidly

HVO’s Kilauea Summit Livestream caught today’s Halema’uma’u “subsurface explosion” (is that what we’re calling them now?) and — wow!

Halema’uma’u BEFORE: screengrab of USGS/HVO Kilauea Livestream before the day’s explosive event. I’ve boosted the exposure to bring out details. (Jun 16, 2018)

(a few hours later, when, luckily, it was still possible to rewind the livestream back to the time of the explosion, since I missed it.)

Halema’uma’u Crater AFTER: screengrab of USGS/HVO Kilauea Livestream taken later in the day after the dust had settled. Look at that big chunk of the rim that dropped on the right!

We’ve been hearing about subsidence, slumping, and rockfalls for weeks, but there’s nothing quite like seeing it, even if the video’s a bit fuzzy. I took the liberty of saving a clip:

Radar showed the plume was less than 7000 feet, and as usual the energy release checked in at 5.3.

While I rewound the livestream to grab that clip before it fell off the “back” of the livestream conveyor belt, it looks like I jumped right over this:

There was still a column of steam at that spot when I checked an hour later, but I don’t recall it spinning.

Okay, enough fiddling with the livestream. 

What else happened today? Same as the last few days, to the point that I had to double-check the date on today’s HVO  Kilauea status report.  Fissure 8’s cone is holding at 170 feet, fountains currently around 185-200 feet. Fissure 16/18 continues to ooze.

The lava river is running as fast as ever:

Despite the increased vog due to lack of tradewinds, that’s the clearest overflight video I’ve seen in days.

Mick Kalber notes the pahoehoe channel now cuts all the way through the a’a field to the ocean, which may explain recent videos of lava racing at amazing speeds…

Continue reading June 16: Things Moving Sideways or Down Quite Rapidly

June 15: Summit Explosion Captured on Livestream

USGS: “Photograph taken during helicopter overflight captures fissure 8 lava fountain.” This one’s wonderfully moody with subtle textures close up. (Full-sized)

Lava fountains rise and fall, but the river they  feed remains the same: a vigorously-flowing channel down to a wide ocean entry, with occasional small overflows slopping over the levees (banks). Last night, Fissure 8’s fountains were reaching 200 feet; today they dropped again to 100-130 feet with bursts up to 180.  Its cinder cone, built of spatter and tephra falling around the fountains, is now 170 feet tall.

When is somebody going to name this pu’u? 

USGS: “Lava fountains from Fissure 8 reach heights of 200 ft overnight. The cinder and spatter cone that is building around the fissure is now about 165 ft at its highest point. At times, fissure activity is hidden behind the cinder and spatter cone, as shown in this image.” (Full-sized)

Frequency of earthquakes ramped up Thursday night, with more M3s than before. Today’s M5.3 summit explosion was late, finally popping at 11:56am, sending up an ash-poor (?) cloud 10,000 feet. HVO: “It didn’t produce a distinct plume, which is why we say ‘ash and gases’ instead.” This cycle of daily explosive events has been going on since May 26 or 29, depending on how rigidly one defines the pattern.

All right, let’s get to the science. And a rather foggy but nevertheless genuine video clip of one of Halema’uma’u’s daily explosions.

Continue reading June 15: Summit Explosion Captured on Livestream

June 12: Steve Brantley (USGS) Weekly Talk on Eruption

I didn’t realize I’d missed one of Steve Brantley’s excellent 10-minute slideshow presentations at the weekly Puna Community Meetings. This one took place on Tuesday, June 12 at Pahoa High School.

I learn something from every one of these talks, which sum up Kilauea eruption activity of the past week in a way that’s easy for the general public to understand without talking down to them.

Video of meeting is archived here. Steve’s presentation starts at timestamp 42:10. Where possible, I’ll be including images in my transcript which match his slides.

(Steve Brantley is a USGS geologist, deputy-scientist-in-charge of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.)


Hello everybody. Thank you for coming out again and thank you for your perseverance. I’ll show a couple slides of what’s been happening down in this part of the neighborhood and end with some slides of the summit area, which continues to change very dramatically.

Cutaway Diagram of Kilauea Volcano, adapted from USGS Characteristics of Hawaiian Volcanoes. (I’ve adjusted text and drawn arrow to match Steve Brantley’s slide in his presentations.)

So this is  the overview slide I’ve showed for the past few times. It gives you the overall picture. It’s an image, cartoon, from the summit area all the way out to the eastern tip of the island. The summit area here [under “Kilauea Caldera” label], eastern tip [down by “Kapoho Crater”], with a cross section showing you the general picture of the magma reservoir system from the summit of the volcano down through the East Rift Zone and into the Lower East Rift Zone.

Continue reading June 12: Steve Brantley (USGS) Weekly Talk on Eruption

June 10: LERZ Very Gassy, Summit Not So Much

Today’s Eruption Summary

Fissure 8’s eight-mile lava river and the summit’s daily explosion have followed their usual pattern of the past two weeks. However, volcanic gas emissions at the Lower East Rift Zone doubled on Saturday compared to the past week, while SO2 emissions from Halema’uma’u are about half what they were before this current eruption started.

USGS: “The fissure 8 cone and lava fountaining viewed at 8PM HST on June 9 from a location on Kupono Street. The incandescence to the left is lava in the active channel.” BELOW: June 10 Hawaii Fire Department Overflight, ocean entry plume in far distance.

06/10/18 Photos - Kilauea, HI - East Rift Zone Eruption Event

Are those two facts linked? I dunno. I’ll be interested to hear if/when lava samples collected from the Fissure 8 flow start to show signs they came down from the summit instead of Pu’u O’o.

USGS: “The northern rim of Halema’uma’u Crater at Kilauea’s summit on June 9, from the noon helicopter overflight. The floor of the Kilauea Caldera is showing prominent cracking from the ongoing subsidence, and the steaming cracks in the background have been observed for several days now.”
Before-and-After Halema’uma’u 2017 vs 2018

I found a July 2017 screencap from HVO’s panorama webcam, so here’s an animation fading from it to today’s view. Check out the full-sized animation; you can really see how much Halema’uma’u has enlarged.

HVO webcam panoramas of Halema’umau: July 10, 2017  compared with June 10, 2018. (Click for Full-sized)
Below: slow news day, lots of photos.

Be warned, there’s some sad news, especially in the social media section at the end. This is a natural disaster, and it’s hard, even if it provides some amazing visuals and fascinating science as compensation. But they can’t make up for what’s lost.

Continue reading June 10: LERZ Very Gassy, Summit Not So Much

Pu’u O’o 1983 versus Puna Eruption 2018

I came across this interesting paper on the last lava flow to threaten Lower Puna, just 3-4 years ago. It brings home just how remarkable the current eruption is.

Michael Poland, USGS: “The 2014–2015 Pāhoa lava flow crisis at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i: Disaster avoided and lessons learned” (Feb 2016)

[Video: Pu’u O’o lava flow 2014-2015]

Poland’s paper says that the Pu’u O’o lava flow (Episode 61e) that started June 27, 2014 was the longest at Kilauea in the past 500 years.* It eventually reached a length of ~20 km (12.43 miles), but it took until March 2015 to get there. Its average rate of speed was 0-500 meters a day.

By contrast, Fissure 8’s current flow started on May 26, 2018, and covered 13 km (8 miles) to the ocean by the evening of June 3 (eight days). At times it exceeded 500 meters per hour. 

This explains a lot.

I wondered why some residents of the Kapoho area said their evacuation orders came with “no warning,” or they didn’t bother to evacuate their belongings, or they didn’t think the lava would reach their house, even though the eruption had started a month before, and lava had been moving their way for a week.

But they’re used to the Pu’u O’o eruption of the past 35 years, which took years and years to reach and cover the community of Kalapana. The current eruption is covering as much ground in a week as Pu’u O’o took months to cover. And Pu’u O’o was traveling farther than any eruption in 500 years.

No wonder people were caught flat-footed!

Below: I created an animation of 3 HVO/USGS maps to show Pu’u O’o vs current Lower East Rift Zone lava flows.

Maps used to create this animation:

  1. USGS April 30 map of Pu’u O’o active lava flow (pink, Episode 61g, May 24, 2016-Apr 30, 2018) and older Pu’u O’o flows (gray, Jan 3, 1983-Apr 30, 2018)
  2. USGS May 2 map showing  magma was moving into Lower East Rift Zone (inferred by earthquakes); Pu’u O’o lava flows of past 35 years shown in pale pink, episode 61g in dark pink. The 2014-2015 (episode 61e) flow is the light Y-shaped area extending to the northeast. (Sorry, I don’t have acreage numbers for episode 61g, or for that matter final totals for the Pu’u O’o lava flows.)
  3. USGS June 10 map of active lava flows in Puna (Lower East Rift Zone) since May 3, 2018, with current flows in pink and historical flows (including the 2014 Pu’u O’o mentioned in that paper) in purple.

In short, the current 2018 eruption is hotter, faster, and covering so much ground that it’s surprising even to geologists, let alone residents. This is not the kind of volcanic eruption they’re used to.

*(Pu’u O’o’s 35-year eruption was exceeded by the 60-year Ailā‘au eruption that created the Thurston Lava Tube in the 1400s. After which, Kilauea caldera collapsed, and there were 300 years of explosive eruptions before Kilauea reverted to effusive (lava) eruptions. But don’t panic: we’re nowhere near 60 years of continuous lava flows even now. Also, two weeks ago the USGS said that only about 2% of the volume of magma in Kilauea’s magma chamber has erupted since May 3, and it’s still being resupplied from below.)


June 5: Steve Brantley (USGS) Sums Up Eruption So Far

At a public talk in Pahoa, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Deputy-Scientist-in-Charge Steve Brantley gave a 10-minute talk on the 2018 Kilauea eruption sequence so far.

I was going to summarize it in my June 6 Kilauea daily digest. However, it’s so useful I’ve transcribed it in full below.

The full community meeting is archived here, with Steve Brantley’s presentation starting at 44:30. BigIslandVideoNeed has excerpted it below, but they don’t usually show the slides he was showing. I’m going to be putting those back in, matching or approximating the photos he selected.

Steve Brantley, HVO/USGS: “Good evening and thank you for coming out tonight. […]

Continue reading June 5: Steve Brantley (USGS) Sums Up Eruption So Far