June 19: Steve Brantley USGS Talk on Eruption Status

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).

Steve Brantley, HVO/USGS:

Continue reading June 19: Steve Brantley USGS Talk on Eruption Status

June 20: Jaggar Museum Collection Rescued

Today’s Eruption Summary:

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)
USGS: “The rock wall at the Jaggar Museum Overlook is cracked and crumbling.
USGS image taken June 18, 2018.”

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.”

Meanwhile, HVO staff is “making arrangements to remove as much archival and historical material as possible from the buildings,”  They’re so busy monitoring this eruption that I think they may need to hire movers:

Outside, it’s time to bid farewell to the old Halema’uma’u overlook & parking lot:

USGS: “View of the southern edge of the growing Halema‘uma‘u crater (middle right) during yesterday’s [Jun 19] helicopter-assisted work at Kīlauea’s summit. The once-popular parking lot (closed since 2008) that provided access to Halema‘uma‘u is no longer–the parking lot fell into the crater this past week as more and more of the Kīlauea Crater floor slides into Halema‘uma‘u. The Crater Rim Drive road (middle) now ends at Halema‘uma‘u instead of the parking lot. The view is toward the west-northwest.” (Full-sized)

Continue reading June 20: Jaggar Museum Collection Rescued

June 18: Harry Kim Needs to Rest

Today’s Eruption Summary
USGS gif of F8 lava flow  Jun 17.

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.

USGS on Facebook: “About midday, minor amounts of lava spilled over the channel levees but did not advance very far. USGS image taken June 18, 2018 of the upper flow field, just downstream from fissure 8. The ocean entry is marked by a visible plume in the upper left.”

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.

Continue reading June 18: Harry Kim Needs to Rest

June 18: USGS Kilauea Conference Call

BigIslandVideoNews posted an abridged version of today’s USGS Media Conference Call:

Here’s the full unabridged audio recording.  Below, I take notes/paraphrase, for anyone who’s especially interested in the nitty gritty of what’s going on with the volcano.

June 18 USGS 11AM Media Conference Call

Continue reading June 18: USGS Kilauea Conference Call

June 11: USGS Conference Call: What’s Causing Summit Explosions?

Once again the USGS media conference call at 11AM is full of so much juicy info I’ve moved it to a separate post rather than make my daily digest 10 pages long.

July 10, 2017 HVO webcam panorama of Halema’umau compared with June 10, 2018. (Click for Full-sized)

BigIslandVideo hasn’t put their edited/abridged version up, which they usually enhance with recent video footage. But they cut a lot of the Q&A anyway.

Below are my paraphrase/notes on the full, unabridged conference call (I skipped a non-geology questions where answer is “Agency X handles that; ask them.”]

Continue reading June 11: USGS Conference Call: What’s Causing Summit Explosions?

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 7: Kilauea’s New Normal (For the Moment)

Today’s eruption summary

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.

Last HVO update of the evening:

Video/Conference Call Excerpt:

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.

Continue reading June 7: Kilauea’s New Normal (For the Moment)