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

Changes to Halema’uma’u Crater, Kilauea Summit

Before and after: Halema’uma’u in 1992 & 2018

Left:  November 1992, photo by Winston Brundige*
Right: Screengrab of HVO webcam on June 19, 2018

*used with permission. Thanks, Dad.

Before and after: May vs June 2018

Left: USGS photo from Volcano House, May 19, 2018
Right: USGS photo from Volcano House, June 13, 2018

  • Halemaʻumaʻu before this started: 1 km (0.6 mi) across, 85 m (~280 ft) deep.
  • Halema’uma’u Jun 15, 2018: 1 X 1.3 km (0.6 to 0.8 mi) dimensions, 370 m (1,210 ft) deep.
Radar Images, May 5-June 18

Thanks to the Italian Space Agency for taking a radar satellite image of Kilauea about once a week:

USGS: “May 5 and June 18 at about 6:00 a.m.[…]The last five images in the sequence, from May 29-June 18, show the development of several cracks outside Halema‘uma‘u (also seen in recent UAS footage of the crater) and inward slumping of a large portion of the western, southwestern, and northern crater rim. Much of this motion appears to be coincident with the small explosions from the summit that have taken place on a near daily basis over the past 3 weeks.” (Full-sized)
Yes, HVO and the Jaggar Museum have evacuated, and artwork has been moved to safety.

28 Days At kilauea Summit, May-June 2018
Halema’uma’u Crater, May 24-June 22. Animation of screencaps from USGS/HVO Kilauea Summit wide-angle webcam. (Full-sized)
Views of Halema’uma’u Over the Years

Continue reading Changes to Halema’uma’u Crater, Kilauea Summit

June 1: Changes to Halema’uma’u Crater

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

USGS Animation of recent changes at Kilauea’s summit, radar images taken by Italian Space Agency’s Cosmo-Skymed satellite.



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.

Halema’uma’u crater and its lava lake in 2016 (USGS).

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:

May 31: 6PM Eruption Update – Conference Call

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:

Continue reading May 31: 6PM Eruption Update – Conference Call

May 19 USGS Press Conference on Kilauea’s Explosive Side

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.


Continue reading May 19 USGS Press Conference on Kilauea’s Explosive Side

April 30: Halema’uma’u Lava Lake Before It Dropped

Amateur video of Halema’uma’u lava lake in Overlook Crater, taken by Jeffrey Brown on April 30, 2018.

The week before, the summit had been inflating and the lava lake had been overflowing, as seen on this USGS timelapse video of Halema’uma’u Crater April 25-26.

Map of Halema’uma’u and Kilauea Summit, because it’s a little confusing:

Continue reading April 30: Halema’uma’u Lava Lake Before It Dropped

March 19, 2018: Ten Year Anniversary of Lava Lake in Halema’uma’u Crater

Today marked the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the “Overlook Vent” lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu Crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano.

2008 and 2018 views of the “Overlook vent” lava lake within Halema’uma’u Crater.

From March 19 post of HVO’s Photo & Video Chronology archive:

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.

Continue reading March 19, 2018: Ten Year Anniversary of Lava Lake in Halema’uma’u Crater

Oct 2017: Lava Lake at Kilauea’s Summit, Nine Years On

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.

Additional Credits:
Producers: Janet Babb and Steve Wessells
Writers: Janet Babb, Donna Matrazzo, and Steve Wessells
Director of Photography: Richard Lyons”

Continue reading Oct 2017: Lava Lake at Kilauea’s Summit, Nine Years On