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?
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.
A relatively clear day, May 31, finally allowed the USGS to get good, detailed drone footage of changes at the summit.
To orient you on the crater-within-a-crater-within-a-crater (Park Map):
Kilauea Caldera is the megacrater, 2×3 miles across, on whose cliff walls are perched the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Kilauea Visitor Center and Volcano House.
Halema’uma’u is a crater on the floor of Kilauea Caldera, about 2500 x 2900 feet. It held a lava lake in the 1800s, but drained and exploded in 1924, after which it was quiet for most of the 20th century.
The Overlook Vent was a crater on the floor of Halema’uma’u containing a lava lake from 2008 until May 2018. It drained and has been exploding with steam and ash since the beginning of May. Rockfalls from its sides have enlarged it:
changes at kilauea’s summit, May 2018
May 5-29, USGS animation using radar data from Italian Space Agency’s Cosmo-SkyMed satellite:
May 23-31, new radar imagery shows more recent changes. The USGS caption notes that not only has the overlook vent widened, but also Halema’uma’u Crater:
Below, a compilation of video footage of Halema’umau and its lava lake in August 2016. Go to timestamp 2:10 for a good view of Halema’uma’u Crater with the Overlook Vent’s lava lake inside. Compare that with the May 31 video above. The black area is lava that overflowed onto the floor of Halema’uma’u when the lake’s level was high.
Note: the “Overlook Vent” was named after the old Halema’uma’u Overlook, because that’s the side where the lava lake vent opened in 2008. There used to be a parking lot and viewing area on Halema’uma’u’s crater rim where visitors could look down into it. In 2008, the Overlook area was closed to visitors, because whenever there was a rockfall into the lake it tended to do THIS:
Normally I tuck the USGS media conference call into my digest for the day, but my notes are so long I decided to put this in its own post.
Summary: Eruption is continuing with no signs of stopping. Wendy Stovall gives all kinds of geeky tidbits about temperatures, heights, where the magma is coming from, plumbing system of Kilauea. She emphasizes that Kilauea receives a “continuous supply of magma from the deep mantle” thanks to its mantle plume. Scientists are starting to discuss calling this a new eruption, but their focus right now is on collecting data and getting info to Civil Defense.
Full notes (sorry they’re a little rough, but you’ve got the gist) below cut:
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.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the eruption within Halema‘uma‘u at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. When thevent first opened on March 19, 2008, it formed a small pit about 115 feet (35 m) wide. Over the past decade, that pit (informally called the “Overlook crater”) has grown into a gaping hole about 919 feet by 656 feet (280 x 200 m) in size. Click on the above webcam images to watch the growth of Overlook crater over the past 10 years.
That post also shared a slideshow of the lava lake’s formation and widening over a ten-year period:
Timelapses of Kīlauea Summit, Week of March 19
These were taken from HVO’s webcams, which at the time had been capturing images of the caldera and lava lake (“Overlook Vent”) every ten minutes for years. They give you a sense of what “normal” was for Kīlauea prior to the start of this eruption:
Views into the lava lake from two webcams that were some of the first casualties of this eruption:
At the time, there was no summit livestream. Webcams were plenty to keep up with the day-to-day fluctuations.
USGS Video: History of Lava Lake (20 minutes)
Dr. Matt Patrick (USGS) reviews the ten year history of the overlook vent lava lake. Around 8:55 the camera pans around to show the entire lake and other parts of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. These are some of the last views of it prior to changes in May 2018.
Wind noise makes him a little hard to hear. The USGS also posted this video on their own multimedia library. Since their server sometimes times out, let me include the transcript below.
Excellent retrospective the USGS put out in 2017 on the then nine-year-old lava lake at Kilauea’s summit, with great information and spectacular views:
USGS video description:
In March 2008, a new volcanic vent opened within Halema‘uma‘u, a crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on the Island of Hawaiʻi. This new vent is one of two ongoing eruptions on the volcano. The other is on Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone, where vents have been erupting nearly nonstop since 1983. The duration of these simultaneous summit and rift zone eruptions on Kīlauea is unmatched in at least 200 years.
Since 2008, Kīlauea’s summit eruption has consisted of continuous degassing, occasional explosive events, and an active, circulating lava lake. Because of ongoing volcanic hazards associated with the summit vent, including the emission of high levels of sulfur dioxide gas and fragments of hot lava and rock explosively hurled onto the crater rim, the area around Halemaʻumaʻu remains closed to the public as of 2017.
Through historical photos of past Halemaʻumaʻu eruptions and stunning 4K imagery of the current eruption, this 24-minute program tells the story of Kīlauea Volcano’s summit lava lake—now one of the two largest lava lakes in the world. It begins with a Hawaiian chant that expresses traditional observations of a bubbling lava lake and reflects the connections between science and culture that continue on Kīlauea today.
The video briefly recounts the eruptive history of Halemaʻumaʻu and describes the formation and continued growth of the current summit vent and lava lake. It features USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists sharing their insights on the summit eruption—how they monitor the lava lake, how and why the lake level rises and falls, why explosive events occur, the connection between Kīlauea’s ongoing summit and East Rift Zone eruptions, and the impacts of the summit eruption on the Island of Hawaiʻi and beyond.
Producers: Janet Babb and Steve Wessells
Writers: Janet Babb, Donna Matrazzo, and Steve Wessells
Director of Photography: Richard Lyons”