August 19: The Lull Continues

This Week’s Eruption Activity

Negligible. There’s a few residual bits of lava oozing into the ocean at Ahalanui. Otherwise, there’s not much going on at the summit or LERZ.

[In case Tweet above isn’t showing, here’s the 3D Fissure 8 video on HVO website.]

USGS: “This thermal map shows the fissure system and lava flows as of 6 am on Wednesday, August 15 [2018]. Residual lava in the Fissure 8 flow continues to drain, feeding numerous small ocean entries. In the Fissure 8 cone there was a single, small lava pond.” (Full-sized)
On Friday August 19, HVO lowered ground alert levels, just as they lowered aviation alert levels after the ash explosions stopped. Here’s the official notice:

In light of the reduced eruptive activity at Kīlauea Volcano over the last several days, HVO is lowering the Alert Level for ground based hazards from WARNING to WATCH. This change indicates that the hazards posed by crater collapse events (at the Kīlauea summit) and lava flows (Lower East Rift Zone; LERZ) are diminished. However, the change does not mean with absolute certainty that the LERZ eruption or summit collapses are over. It remains possible that eruption and collapse activity could resume.


Remarks: Background and Prognosis

Kīlauea Volcano has remained quiet for well over a week now, with no collapse events at the summit since August 2. Except for a small, crusted-over pond of lava deep inside the fissure 8 cone and a few scattered ocean entries, lava ceased flowing in the LERZ channel on August 6. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions rates at the summit and LERZ are also drastically reduced (the combined rate is lower than at any time since late 2007).

It remains too soon to tell if this diminished activity represents a temporary lull or the end of the LERZ lava flows and/or summit collapses. In 1955, similar pauses of 5 and 16 days occurred during an 88-day-long LERZ eruption. During the Mauna Ulu eruption (1969-1974), a 3.5 month pause occurred in late 1971.

HVO will continue to record detailed visual observations and scrutinize incoming seismic, deformation, and gas data, looking for evidence of significant movement of magma or pressurization as would be expected if the system was building toward renewed activity.

Also on Friday, the National Park Service issued a media release and gave select local media a guided tour of the summit. Lots of info, and worth seeing:

This Week’s USGS Photos From Summit to Sea

Continue reading August 19: The Lull Continues

August 13: Pele Is Sleeping, Part 2

August 13, 2018. USGS: “Ocean entries were small and scattered this morning, but lava had made no significant advance toward Isaac Hale Beach Park. The Pohoiki boat ramp remains intact, but access from it to the open bay has been cut off by a sand bar that extends from the jetty to the shore. As molten lava streams into the ocean, it shatters into small glassy fragments, forming black sand that’s transported along the coast by longshore currents.” (Full-sized)
Eruption Summary: the Lull continues

Fissure 8 is still emitting a gas plume, and lava circulates weakly within the cone. Residual lava is still draining into the ocean near Pohoiki. Gas emissions at the summit, Pu’u O’o, and even the Lower East Rift Zone are low.

August 13, 2018. USGS: “During their overflight this morning, HVO scientists observed no new activity at any of the lower East Rift Zone fissures. At the fissure 8 vent, a “puddle” of sluggish lava remained in the cone. No other incandescent lava was seen along the fissure 8 channel, except at the ocean entry. Some other fissures were steaming, as seen here.” (Full-sized)

[This post is a followup to yesterday’s, where I reviewed HVO news, photos and videos from the past week. Here, I’m covering everything else: local news media outlets, images/videos from local photographers, and a week’s worth of good Q&A from HVO/USGS on social media.]

Miscellaneous SCIENCE-y news

Timelapse of Kilauea Caldera Aug 2-9

August 12 LERZ Overflight

The latest from the @HotSeatHawaii gang. Mick Kalber’s August 12 video shows a few fingers of red lava dribbling out of the delta, and Pohoiki’s new sandbar which is currently blocking the boat ramp, but that can be moved. There’s a quick sweep over the weakly steaming fissures of the LERZ and a glimpse into Fissure 8’s cone, and then they tried to take a distant look at Kilauea’s summit:

Here’s Mick’s observations from this flight.

Bruce Omori posted photos of the same flight on Facebook, including:

Continue reading August 13: Pele Is Sleeping, Part 2

July 30: Day 88 Matches 1955 Eruption Duration

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Today’s Eruption Summary

Eruption continues as usual with three minor things to note. First: “fuming” on the southwestern margin of the flow near Pohoiki could mean possible breakouts, according to today’s HVO Kilauea status update.

Same source also says that, rather unusually, a 4.1 earthquake at 10:02 pm was felt all the way to Hilo, far more widely than the stronger summit collapse events, possibly because it was at a depth of 7 miles.

And finally, Tuesday will mark the 89th day of the eruption, surpassing the length of the 1955 Kapoho eruption which had previously held the record for the longest LERZ eruption since westerners arrived and began keeping records.

From Other Geologists

Erik Klemetti’s Rocky Planet blog in Discover magazine invites readers to “Check Out How The 2018 Eruption Has Changed At Kilauea’s Summit“. Although I suspect readers of this blog are well aware of pretty much everything in that post!

I tweeted him a question about “Halema’uma’u Caldera,” which he seems to be using instead of “Kīlauea caldera.” I know Halemaʻumaʻu crater has expanded so much it could be classified as a caldera now, but so far HVO scientists have resisted doing so, to avoid confusion with the larger, older caldera.

July 30 HCFD Overflight Photos

HCFD’s July 30 album is up on Flickr. Just 12 photos plus the video clip at the top of this post. Including the clearest views we’ve seen of Isaac Hale Park in some time, since the laze plume wasn’t in the way:

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Here’s a few USGS photos from today plus the LERZ map, and overflight video and photos from Mick and Bruce:

Continue reading July 30: Day 88 Matches 1955 Eruption Duration

July 26: 2018 Kīlauea Eruption Three Months On

Three months ago today, shortly before 5 pm on May 3, lava began to erupt from one of several cracks that had opened in Leilani Estates in the Lower Puna district of the Big Island of Hawai’i. This followed several days of earthquakes indicating magma moving downrift from Puʻu ʻŌʻō, after its floor collapsed and its lava drained away overnight on April 30.

At first, the fissures spattered and sputtered, with most of the lava falling on both sides of the vents and building up ramparts (walls). Individual fissures erupted for several hours at a time, then died out. Some restarted, others simply steamed. A few sent out sluggish lava flows, claiming a few houses.

On May 19, the eruption began in earnest. Most of the old, stale lava stored in the rift zone since the 1955 and 1960 eruptions had been pushed out, and fresh, hot, runny lava from Puʻu ʻŌʻō began pouring out of vents, sending the first lava flows down to the sea (See the Honolulu CivilBeat livestream from that day, timestamp 6:03). Lava reached the ocean before dawn on May 20.

While Fissure 8 had originally opened on May 5, it was just one of many attempts for all that magma coming down the rift zone to find the most convenient exit. (Magma can reshape its own plumbing, just as we’ve seen lava do on the surface.) Fissure 8 reactivated again on May 28, and within a few days became the dominant vent for this eruption. Its lava flow reached Kapoho Bay the evening of June 3, and had covered the bay within 36 hours.

Kapoho Bay Before and After filled with Lava
USGS overflights of Kapoho Bay, morning of June 3 and June 5.

All that magma exiting the summit caused the lava lake at the summit to drain away, then Halemaʻumaʻu fell into it and started enlarging, and eventually much of the floor of Kīlauea caldera began to subside as well. The collapses were explosive at first, then, after the lava lake’s conduit had been thoroughly blocked by rubble, the collapses settled into a regular pattern.

So here we are. The LERZ eruption has added nearly 800 acres to the island, covering lower Puna with 34.0 square kilometers (13.1 square miles) of lava. We’ve almost come to take for granted this extraordinary eruption, which has dramatically reshaped the summit of Kīlauea and produced more lava in 3 months than Puʻu ʻŌʻō did in 35 years.

Today’s Eruption Summary
July 26, 2018. USGS: “Fissure 8 continues to erupt lava into the channel leading northeastward from the vent. This north-facing view of the cone, vent, and proximal channel was taken during HVO’s overflight this morning.” (Full-sized)

HVO’s volcanologists have told us that eruptions like this wax and wane— Puʻu ʻŌʻō certainly did, sometimes pausing for weeks— and that part of what makes Fissure 8 extraordinary is that it’s sustained such a high volume of lava effusion for so long. Today, it’s finally showed signs of weakening— maybe? The USGS reported that its lava flow seemed sluggish and that lava levels are down in the lower part of the channel. The flow margin remains stalled a mere tenth of a mile from Pohoiki’s boat ramp.

July 26, 2018. USGS: “At the coast, the lava flow in the Ahalanui area remains less than 0.1 miles from the Pohoiki boat ramp at Isaac Hale Park (left of center in this photo). The active ocean entry is a few hundred yards east (right) of this photograph.” (Full-sized)

Today’s summit collapse occurred at 12:09 pm, energy equivalent of 5.3 as usual. That’s 53 hours since the previous Type A event, the longest interval so far. Clouds and fog obscured the view, but FWIW here’s my video captures of the HVO tower and northeast caldera rim livestreams.

USGS: “As of 2:00 p.m. HST, July 26, 2018, the lava flow margins had not expanded since the previous map, so no red areas (indicating expansion) appear on this map.” (Full-sized)

Continue reading July 26: 2018 Kīlauea Eruption Three Months On

July 24: Visible Shockwave in Steam Clouds

July 24, 2018: Two HVO geologists out standing in their field. USGS tweeted this among a batch of photos today. (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

Today’s summit collapse event at 6:41 am was upgraded to 5.6 a 5.3, as usual. The USGS apologized for calculations errors for the past 3 days

Since I was out and missed it on livestream, I’m very glad HVO captured it.  Here’s yet another trick from Pele’s repertoire:

There’s a lot to look at here. From USGS caption:

“In this video, watch as today’s event unfolds from the perspective of HVO’s live-stream camera. At 6:41:08 (time stamp at upper left), a small tree along the right margin of the video begins to sway. At 6:41:10, a pressure wave passes through the steam plume in the crater, and light is reflected back to the camera (highlights the passage of the expanding sound energy through the air.) At 6:41:11, a rockfall begins on the South Sulphur Banks, a distant light-colored scarp on the left.”

Field crews reported no surge at Fissure 8 following today’s summit collapse.

I notice the latest HVO Kilauea report says Fissure 8’s cone is down to 50 m, “or 55 yards.” It’s definitely crumbled or eroded— that may be responsible for some of the lava boats— but I’m never sure whether they’re measuring from the original ground level or the lava on which it sits. At any rate, the fountaining is lower, too, since it’s not rising above the lip of the cone.

July 24, 2018. USGS: “Fissure 8 lava channel as viewed from HVO’s morning overflight today. The robust volcanic gas plume in the far distance was rising from the fissure 8 vent.” (Full-sized)

Down at the ocean entry, the main channel is still dumping into the sea from multiple toes near former Ahalanui.

July 24, 2018. USGS: “The Hawaii County Fire Department captured this image of Isaac Hale Park and boat ramp during their overflight of the area late this afternoon.” (Full-sized)

I’m impressed HCFD was able to catch a glimpse under the thick, low laze plume, which was obstructing the view during @HotSeatHawaii’s overflight, which looked about like this (in fact the USGS helicopter was down below them):

July 24, 2018. USGS: “The ocean entry has expanded to the southwest through a series of lava ‘ooze-outs’ from the southern flow margin that organized into an incipient channel. As of this morning, the flow margin was in or at the edge of Isaac Hale Park, approximately 175 m (575 ft) from the Pohoiki boat ramp. Unfortunately, the view was obscured by laze (the smaller plume below the larger laze plume) during the overflight.” (Full-sized)

“Ooze-outs” are occurring along the west side of the active flow south Kapoho Crater, all the way down to the ocean (where it is threatening Isaac Hale).

Other news that slipped under the radar: HCFD took a swing by the summit yesterday! It was very dusty and hazy, but the new shape of Halemaʻumaʻu is becoming clear:


Look for Crater Rim Drive at lower left around 0:30, falling into the crater where it used to lead to the parking lot; HVO is really hard to glimpse at upper right.

There were several more photos, giving us a little more perspective on the whole of Kīlauea Caldera as it is now:

Continue reading July 24: Visible Shockwave in Steam Clouds

July 23: Pohoiki Going Tonight (I Think)

July 23, 2018. View of lava channel from F8 where it bends to south and heads for ocean (laze plume in background). USGS: “The fissure 8 channel continues to carry lava toward the coast on the west side of Kapoho Crater (vegetated cone, far left). Northwest of this cone, overflows (lower left) of the channel occurred overnight, but lava was confined to the existing flow field and did not threaten any homes or structures.” (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

The USGS has updated the energy release for yesterday evening’s summit collapse to  M5.5. (For more info: “Why Do Earthquake Magnitudes Sometimes Change?” from a 2016 issue of Volcano Watch by HVO.)

Fissure 8 exhibited surge behavior afterwards. Overnight, drone crews observed minor overflows just northwest of Kapoho Cone, most of which were confined to the existing flow field and/or stopped before traveling far enough to threaten structures.

July 23, 2018. USGS: “Lava continued to enter the sea near Ahalanui during HVO’s early morning helicopter overflight of Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone (view to northeast). The southern margin of the flow was still about [a quarter mile] from the boat ramp at Isaac Hale Park this morning. The jetty along the launch ramp is visible near the center of the photo.” (Full-sized)
The main ocean entry and southern margin of the flow haven’t moved much in the past few days. However, USGS reports “a new lobe has started from the southern lobe and is active along its southwestern margin, slowly heading towards the ocean.” Today’s 1 pm map clarifies the new lobe’s location:

July 23, 2018, 1 pm USGS map of LERZ lava flow field. Note small overflow by Fissure 8 as well as upstream of Kapoho bend on the north side of the braided channels. (Full-sized)

Ikaika Marzo, a lava tour boat operator who stays a sensible distance from shore, reportedly saw lava is in Isaac Hale Park, within 50 m of Pohoiki boat ramp at 7:15 this evening.

No summit collapse today, unless the pattern changes; the next one ought to occur tomorrow morning.

Here’s highlights of the USGS Media Conference Call from this afternoon:

Full audio file archived here.

Continue reading July 23: Pohoiki Going Tonight (I Think)

July 15: Tiny Island Is Now Tiny Peninsula

July 15, 2018. USGS: ” View of fissure 8 looking uprift toward the west. The open lava channel in upper right leads to the ocean; when the photo was taken this early morning, nearly all of the lava erupting from fissure 8 was in the channel. Some lava was spilling eastward to form a slowly advancing flow (middle foreground) atop earlier lava flows. This flow stalled within hours.” (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

Kilauea’s double eruption continues as usual. Fissure 8’s lava river is still sending lava mostly to the southern ocean entry near Ahalanui, following the diverted channel on the west side of Kapoho Crater. The southern margin of the lava flow along the coast has slowed its southward advance, possibly giving Pohoiki/Isaac Hale Park a respite. At 7pm HST, HVO said it was “around half a mile away.”

July 15, 2018. USGS: ” Laze plume rises where lava pours into the sea on the south margin of the fissure 8 flow. This southern boundary did not change location appreciably in the past day, remaining about 900 m (0.56 mi) from the boat ramp at Isaac Hale Park.” (Full-sized)

The tiny island that formed Friday is now a tiny peninsula, joined to shore by a neck of lava or possibly just black sand. Lava continues to ooze into the ocean here and there along the broad front of 6 km (3.7mi) lava delta. Recent HVO Kilauea status alerts have warned that this delta has built out 0.5 miles from the former coastline, and is resting on “unconsolidated lava fragments and sand,” which can give way.

Following this morning’s 3:26 am collapse event (M5.2) at Kilauea’s summit, a pulse of lava came down the rift zone to Fissure 8. This caused an early-morning, temporary overflow to the ESE which did not extend beyond the boundaries of earlier flows. (This spillover was very visible during a 6:30am @hotseathawaii livestream overflight). No other vents show any activity.

USGS: “View of Halema‘uma‘u taken today (July 15) from the south side of the caldera near the KEANAKEKOI Overlook.” (Full-sized)

And a reminder of what it used to be like…

Continue reading July 15: Tiny Island Is Now Tiny Peninsula

July 11: Overflows and More Homes/Landmarks Lost

July 11, 2018. USGS: “A pāhoehoe flow fed by overflows from the fissure 8 lava channel was active along Nohea Street in the Leilani Estates subdivision this morning.” (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

Quite a lot happened today in the LERZ. Fissure 8 started overflowing again about 8:30-9am this morning. Unfortunately, some spillouts on the north side extended past the edges of previous flows, destroying three more homes in Leilani Estates, two on Luana St, one on Nohea.

Another blockage just west of Kapoho Crater last night diverted much of the main lava channel around the west side of the crater’s cone, rejoining the main flow field on the other side. It created a channelized a’a flow which skirted the southern edge of the existing lava field, and was a quarter mile from the coast and Ahalanui Warm Pond by noon.  [Update 10pm HST: I’m seeing several unconfirmed reports on social media that it and Kua O Ka La Charter School were taken by lava late Wednesday afternoon or early evening.]

However, some lava is still being supplied to earlier ocean entry areas, either by still-molten lava that’s permeated the lava delta, or by a lesser supply of new lava following the old route around Kapoho Crater. This lava is working on building a point (it’s still not the easternmost point of the island, although the angle of the left-hand photo makes it appear so):

[full-sized left photo] [full-sized right photo]

Interestingly, today’s tardy summit collapse at 5:46am (M5.3 as usual) seems to have had some effect upon Fissure 8. There’s been speculation that might be occurring, but it wasn’t confirmed until now. According to the HVO update: “The collapse/explosive event this morning was followed by an increase in lava from the fissure 8 vent which has produced small overflows from the upper channel that are threatening a few homes on Nohea and Luana streets.”

July 11, 2018. USGS— in fact this is another Don Swanson photo, according to the FB caption: “A telephoto view of the eastern edge of Halema‘uma‘u taken just two minutes after today’s (July 11) 5:45 a.m. HST collapse explosion event. Steam is intermixed with minor ash that imparts a pinkish-brown color to the plume. The energy released by the event was equivalent to a magnitude-5.3 earthquake.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 22 continues to sputter quietly and intermittently, so the sluggish flow it was emitting a week or so ago has cooled.

July 11 LERZ Lava Flow Map
July 11, 2018. USGS map of LERZ lava flows as of 1pm. Full-sized)

Continue reading July 11: Overflows and More Homes/Landmarks Lost

July 8: Ahalanui Warm Pond, School Under Lava Threat

Today’s Eruption Summary

The LERZ continues as usual, although there are tantalizing hints that change could be on the way:

July 8, 2018. USGS: “Fissure 8 (lower right) and open lava channel leading to the northeast. Geologists noted small lava-level fluctuations in the open channel overnight, which indicates intermittent variations in lava discharge from fissure 8. An increase in lava levels was noted about 1.5 hours after the collapse-explosion event at the volcano’s summit at 02:55 a.m. HST. Evidence of a couple of recent, short-lived channel overflows were observed early this morning, but they had not reached the edge of the flow field. The small steam plumes in distance mark locations of fissures that erupted in early May at the beginning of the ongoing eruption.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 8 gushes within its large cone, Fissure 22 continues to spatter weakly. The open lava channel from Fissure 8 now ends about 2km (1.2 mi) from the coast:

July 8, 2018. USGS: ” View of the partially filled Kapoho Crater (center) and the open lava channel where it makes a 90-degree turn around the crater. The open channel no longer directly enters the ocean. Lava flows freely through the channel only to the southern edge of Kapoho Crater (left side of image). Clearly, lava moves into and through the molten core of the thick ‘a‘ā flow across a broad area from both the sides and end of the channel.” (Full-sized)

From the end of the channel, the lava dives under the crust of the slightly older flows that buried Kapoho Bay. It emerges again along a very broad ocean entry:

July 18,2018. USGS: “Multiple ocean entries were active this early morning, each contributing to the prominent “laze” plume above the area. Lava moves from the open channel through the molten core of the broad ‘a‘ā flow field to the ocean. Kapoho Crater is at middle right of photo.” (Full-sized)

According to USGS/HVO, the ocean entry is “primarily along the northern section,” as it has been for the past few weeks. However, to judge by today’s @hotseasthawaii overflight, there’s notable ocean entries to the south as well. Besides the lava that reaches the ocean, USGS reported lava “oozing out” to the north and southwest of the main a’a field just inland, as one can see on Friday’s thermal map. A few Kapoho Beach Lots houses are hanging on, threatened by the northern “ooze-out.” The southwestern “ooze-out” — several local photographers have reported an unconfirmed  “southern lobe” lava flow— is within a few hundred yards of Ahalanai Warm Pond and Kua O Ka La Charter School:

Screencap from early morning July 8 HotseatHawaii overflight. Ahalanui Warm Pond is just at the end of that straight stretch of Hwy 137, and the school is the light-colored patch just to the right of it. (Full-sized)

The most recent summit collapse event occurred at 2:55am HST, July 8, with an energy release of M5.4.

Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed satellite sent down another radar image of Kilauea caldera today:

July 8, 2018. USGS: “This animated GIF shows a sequence of radar amplitude images that were acquired by the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana CosmoSkyMed satellite system. The images illustrate changes to the caldera area of Kīlauea Volcano that occurred between May 5 and July 8 at about 6:00 a.m. HST. […] The most recent radar scene, from July 8, shows continued motion along cracks over a broader area of the caldera floor, extending east of Halema’uma’u (these cracks are the scarps seen in recent photographs from the Keanakākoʻi overlook area).” (Full-sized)
Continue reading July 8: Ahalanui Warm Pond, School Under Lava Threat

July 3: Lava Boats Cause Overflows

July 3, 2018. USGS: “Fissure 8 and the upper lava channel, viewed from the early morning helicopter overflight of the lower East Rift Zone. Recent heavy rains have soaked into the still-warm tephra and the moisture rises as steam (right side of lava channel).” (Full-sized)
Today’s Eruption Summary

Kilauea’s double eruption continues with little change, except for a few more spillovers. Fissure 8 is feeding its lava river, which continues to ooze out along a broad front on the northern side of the delta and into Kapoho Beach Lots. Fissure 22 continues to spatter intermittently and send out a less-than-impressive flow.

About a dozen Kapoho homes have succumbed to lava over the past week, and more are expected to go. The National Weather Service also reports that there were about 1,200 lightning strikes between 7am and 2pm yesterday during Monday’s lava-boosted thunderstorm in Lower Puna.

Today’s summit explosion occurred at 2:17am HST, with enough clouds that radar couldn’t find a plume (if any). Just to prove seismometers aren’t stuck, the magnitude registered as 5.1. Seismicity is back up to 20-30 quakes per hour after the lull.

July 3, 2018. USGS: “Inward slumping of Halema‘uma‘u continues in response to ongoing subsidence at Kīlauea Volcano’s summit. This image, taken from a temporary observation post located at Volcano House, shows steep walls on the western side of the crater and sloping piles of rubble from rockfall events.” (Full-sized)

Not to be superstitious or anything,  but geologists need to stop giving Pele ideas. During yesterday’s media conference call, Mike Zoellner said, “They [lava boats] do present a risk, because if the flow of the channel jams them against the side and it contacts the levee, that disrupts the flow of the channel. It could divert either the flow itself or the lava going around the boat out of the channel.”

Sure enough, HVO’s Photo & Video Chronology documented a mini-drama today:

July 3, 2018. USGS: “Evolution of a blocked channel, photo 1. A blockage of rafted material within the lava channel causes lava to flow over its banks near the Kapoho cone. In this section of the lava channel a cold lava flow from the 1960 eruption forms a barrier on the north side, which initially directed the channel to the southeast. A constriction in the channel formed at the bend where chunks of cooled rafted lava were able to accumulate and block the flow.” (Full-sized)
July 3, 2018. USGS: ” Evolution of a blocked channel, image 2: While observing this area of the fissure 8 lava channel near Kapoho cone during the morning overflight, geologists witnesed an “apartment-building-sized” blockage within the channel give way and be pushed down stream by the pressurized lava behind. The dark portion within the red channel is the freed blockage. Lava continues to overflow behind the bend and form a cooled black crust. The more quickly flowing lava at the bend has very little crust.” (Full-sized)

See below for a few more photos of this from the Hawai’i County Fire Department.

Continue reading July 3: Lava Boats Cause Overflows