On Tuesday, June 19, there was a Puna Community Meeting at Pahoa High School at 5pm. As usual, Steve Brantley of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory/USGS gave an excellent slide presentation reviewing the current state of the Kilauea eruiption. He covered the “perched lava flow” in the Lower Rift Zone and the dramatic changes at the summit, placing each in context with previous similar events. (I didn’t realize there were records of many past Halema’uma’u collapses).
Video of the entire meeting is posted here. The USGS talk starts at 42:40. I’ve transcribed it below, adding photos when I have something close (and restoring his graphs/diagrams which don’t come through very well on video recording).
Status quo continues, with Fissure 8 feeding a large, fast-flowing channel to the ocean, where it’s entering on the south side of the lava delta today. Upstream along the river, there’s occasional spillovers, but these never travel far from the levees. Top speeds on June 18 were measured at 20mph, by the way. Fissures 6 and 16 have reverted to fuming. (I see no white speck left of Fissure 8 on the LERZ webcam [correction: it’s back at 9:45pm]). Today’s summit explosion occurred at 4:22am (5.3ish), with a minor ash plume rising 6,000 feet above sea level (2000 feet above Kilauea).
Saying Goodbye (At Least For Now)
Today’s big news was confirmation that Jaggar Museum has evacuated its exhibits:
Hawaii Volcanoes NPS: “The cracks on the floor are from earthquake damage. Structural damage from the quakes may have already compromised the building. The observation deck has a new and noticeable tilt. The bigger worry is the increasing and dangerous instability of the crater rim under the building.”
Fissure 8’s still doing its thing, fountaining 150-180 feet overnight with 164 foot spatter cone. The usual minor spillovers on the channel to the ocean. Today the lava’s entering the ocean mostly on the south side of the lava delta in the vicinity of Vacationland. Fissure 16/18 are still oozing, and fissure 6 (the bright spot to the left of Fissure 8 on the LERZ webcam at night) is intermittently incandescent or spattering. Both are “forming small lava flows on top of the existing flows.”
The summit’s daily explosion occurred at 6:12 am, moment magnitude 5.3. It produced a “very small, minor plume that went no more than 500 meters above the ground.” (Brian Shiro in 11AM conference call):
I rewound the Kilauea livestream to watch. The crater was steaming with small white puffy clouds of morning condensation. I saw the window frame vibrate, but the short-lived plume of ash/steam obscured the crater rim, so I didn’t spot any downdrops or rockfalls like we’ve seen for the past few days.
Below: Lots of great photos of summit and LERZ lava field today, and excellent Q&As from USGS on social media.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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), butit 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:
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)
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.)
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.)
These days, it seems like every time we think the eruption’s settled into a kind of equilibrium, it ramps up its activity in one way or another, so I’m sure this headline will be obsolete by morning.
But for today, Kilauea’s new status quo still holds: increasing numbers of summit earthquakes leading up to an ash/gas explosion (yesterday’s was 5.6); fissure 8 pouring out a river of lava adding new real estates to former Kapoho Bay. Updated count in homes lost jumps to ~600, most during the past week when 8’s wide flow covered shore communities.
“Lava fountaining at Fissure 8 fluctuated with heights varying between 190 and 215 feet. This activity is feeding a lava channel flowing east to the ocean entry in the Kapoho Bay area. The noon overflight found that the delta is about 1.2 mi wide in the Vacationland/Waopae area and observed the flow was expanding northward through Kapoho Beachlots. A large area of upwelling offshore suggests the presence of lava flowing on the ocean floor in that area.” —HVO alert June 7, 4:24 HST
Easterly winds tomorrow may blow more vog, particulates, and Pele’s hair over populated areas to the west.
No significant changes; afternoon overflight grounded due to bad weather; summit seismicity climbing, and a small explosion is expected overnight based on patterns of previous events. pic.twitter.com/qVj0nqn4ge
This is something that hasn’t really come up, and I think it’s important to hear: a frank reply from USGS Wendy Stovall and Leslie Gordon during a media conference call about the psychological impact of this eruption on scientists.
Images, more videos, and info (including science segment of this conference call) after the cut.