July 5: USGS Media Conference Call

Between computer troubles (fixed now!) and that all-important Volcano Village meeting last Thursday evening, I missed the July 5 11am USGS media conference call. Here’s the archived audio file.

It was short, but for completeness’ sake, here’s a transcript.

[Note: Posted July 9, 3.30pm HST, backdated to keep it in correct order chronologically.]

Continue reading July 5: USGS Media Conference Call

July 4: Fireworks Every Day In Hawai’i

Today’s entry is going to be a challenge, because my computer chose a holiday to go pau. Arthritis and dodgy vision versus voice dictation and tablet — who will win?

July 4, 2018. USGS: “USGS scientist observes the glow of fissure 8 fountain and channel within Leilani Estates. Steam rises from cracks and hot spots within the tephra deposit surrounding the cone. Frequent observations of the cone and channel are made throughout the day and night to track changes that could lead to signfiicant breakouts beyond the current flow field.” (Full-sized)
Today’s eruption summary

The LERZ eruption continues pretty much as usual, with a few minor embellishments to keep field crews on their toes.

Today’s HVO update noted that Fissure 8 “has been pulsing with more vigorous output in 1-3 minute bursts.” When asked for clarification, USGSVolcanoes replied, “No true indication of change.” F8 continues to send lava downriver to Kapoho, where lava is oozing out along most of the broad front and encroaching on Kapoho Ag and Beach Lots properties.

Fissure 22 continues to spatter intermittently and produce a short, sluggish flow:

Wednesday, July 4, 2018, 5:45 am – Kilauea's east rift zone overflight: Fissure 22 continues to spatter bits of lava…

Posted by Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery on Wednesday, July 4, 2018

…and it still looks like a kid’s science experiment. (It’s hard to tell from overhead, but it’s a perfect steep-sided cone.)

Remember how the lava channel clogged up temporarily around the bend at Kapoho Crater yesterday? It’s still having problems:

July 4, 2018. USGS: “The lava channel from fissure 8 jumped its banks near Kapoho Crater where the channel makes a 90 degree bend. The flow within the channel was diverted around a constricted area and joined the channel again “downstream” to the south (left).” (Full-sized )

I lucked out this morning and caught @HotSeatHawaii ‘s sunrise overflight live, which offered a good view this. Part of the lava is going wide instead of making the sharp turn, though it joins back up around the bend. (More photos below.)

Today’s summit collapse/explosion occurred at 10:19 AM HST. The view was fairly clear today, and the rockfalls were spectacular:

Continue reading July 4: Fireworks Every Day In Hawai’i

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

July 2: Fissure 8 Making Its Own Thunderstorms

Today’s Eruption Summary

No major changes in the past 24 hours, except that the lava channel was full and spilling over its levees in a number of places this morning (as seen in this photo by Bruce Omori). For the most part, they weren’t venturing past the boundaries of earlier flows:

Monday, July 2, 2018, 5:45 am – Kilauea's east rift zone overflight: A number of breaches of the channels can be seen here, as the fresher lava appears more silvery than the older.

Posted by Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery on Monday, July 2, 2018

Fissure 8 continues roaring along. With slack tradewinds today, it managed to whip up enough pyrocumulus to set off some localized thunderstorms. Fissure 22 is still spattering and feeding a small flow that’s going nowhere fast. At the ocean end of Fissure 8’s channel, lava is oozing out along a broad part of the lava delta and chewing further into what’s left of Kapoho Beach Lots:

Monday, July 2, 2018, 5:45 am – Kilauea's east rift zone overflight: Homes and property in Kapoho are being consumed by the flow's expanding northern boundary.

Posted by Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery on Monday, July 2, 2018

The latest summit explosion occurred at 1:24am HST July 2, the usual M5.3, with an ash plume ~1200 feet high. Immediately before, there were about 20-25 earthquakes an hour (a little less than in recent days) and dropped to 5/hour immediately afterwards (again, a little less).

[Below is a USGS video of the June 30 collapse/explosion as seen from Volcano House, I think, which gives a good view of the rockfalls all along the bluffs of the caldera walls]:

I haven’t mentioned LERZ seismicity in some time,  because it’s been low for weeks. But I notice that section of HVO’s daily Kilauea update was amended starting yesterday. Since May, it’s reported “relatively low seismicity” and “low amplitude background tremor” with “numerous small earthquakes” in the LERZ plus occasional “higher amplitude tremor” near the ocean entry. Now it’s added, “Low amplitude tremor increased slightly on June 29 associated with renewed activity at Fissure 22.”

More Photos from USGS

Continue reading July 2: Fissure 8 Making Its Own Thunderstorms

June 28: USGS on Latest Changes to Kīlauea Caldera [Pt. 3 of 3]

This post got long, so I’ve moved the Q&A session to Part 3. Again, I’m transcribing what HVO geologists had to say at the June 28 Volcano Village community meeting.

Part 1 was Kyle Anderson’s talk on seismicity and ground deformation— lots of nitty gritty science— while Part 2 was Don Swanson’s slideshow of some of the visible changes he’s observed within Kīlauea Caldera, with a lot of photos I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Here’s the video of the whole meeting.

Here’s my transcription of the Q&A session. A lot of these questions have already been answered online, but I like hearing direct, personal responses from some of the senior HVO scientists:

Continue reading June 28: USGS on Latest Changes to Kīlauea Caldera [Pt. 3 of 3]

July 1: Fissure 22 Is Back; Kilauea Caldera Is Sinking

Fissure 8 gushes on unchallenged and unchanged, while Fissure 22 — remember the chief subject of Lavacam?— has started spattering 50-80m and sending out a modest lava flow headed NE along the edge of previous flows.

USGS photo from morning overflight, July 1, 2018. Fissure 8 in the distance, Fissure 22 in the middle ground across from PGV. (Full-sized)

Down at the coast, lava continues to ooze out from under much of the northern part of the delta along a broad front, with “pasty” lava squeezing out in several places along Kapoho Beach Lots.

As of 8:30pm 11pm HST, I’m waiting for confirmation of the next summit collapse/explosion.

Besides Fissure 22 reactivating in earnest, the news today is that new digital elevation maps and satellite images give us a clear view of the subsidence of Kilauea Caldera around Halema’uma’u, which has begun to show in livestream and webcam views lately.

First of all, USGS seismologist Kyle Anderson posted this color-coded slide of caldera ground deformation in his Thursday evening talk:

The colors compare the new June 19, 2018 drone-surveillance digital elevation map with a DEM of the caldera captured in 2009. Presumably the light gray areas within Halema’uma’u don’t correspond to anything on the older map, so can’t be compared. Green patches are earthquakes over the past few days indicating stress. And “300+ ft” marks the last known position of the NPIT GPS sensor before it sank out of radio contact. (Full-sized)

Next, the Italian Space Agency’s trusty Cosmo-Skymed satellite has sent us another radar survey of Kilauea. Even though I’d observed dramatic subsidence of the caldera floor in recent livestream and webcam images, the last frame of this animation made me gasp:

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 June 30 at about 6:00 a.m. HST[…] Over time, expansion of the summit eruptive vent within Halema‘uma‘u crater and the widening of Halema‘uma‘u itself are clear. Starting in late May, the development of several cracks outside Halema‘uma‘u is clear, and inward slumping of a large portion of the western, southwestern, and northern crater rim begins. Much of this motion appears to be coincident with the small explosions from the summit that have taken place on a near daily basis since early June. The most recent radar scene, from June 30, shows the formation of 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). We expect this slumping to continue as long as the collapse events and overall subsidence persist. (Full-sized)
We are well on our way to a nested caldera, with Halema’uma’u taking up over half the larger caldera floor. I’m hoping those earthquakes indicate where the edge of the new inner caldera will be, but I’m not a geologist. Here’s those scarps they mentioned, posted a few days ago:

USGS: “Comparison of photographs taken on June 13 and 26 from near Keanakāko’i Crater overlook in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park shows a subsidence scarp that formed as the Kīlauea Crater floor subsided. Scientists estimate the dramatic dropping of the crater floor in this area occurred sometime between June 23 and 26. The view is to the west. Halema‘uma‘u crater is in upper right.” (Full-sized)

Last but not least, the USGS posted this map of the fracturing around Halema’uma’u. Note that the diagram is projected onto a satellite photo of the pre-May caldera, so there’s a ghostly image of the Halema’uma’u we remember in that dark gray area.

USGS: “This map shows major fractures in yellow (as of June 29) on a base image acquired by the WorldView-2 satellite before the current sequence of events began at Kīlauea. The area of major subsidence has expanded east and south, and slightly west, of the main Halema‘uma‘u crater area. The large, red-shaded area east of Halema‘uma‘u is moving down within a scarp-bounded area, as seen in recent photographs of the summit. Some fractures have also formed to the east-northeast of the red-shaded area of accelerated motion, and also on the south caldera rim where parts of the caldera wall have slumped into the rapidly moving caldera floor below. The dark gray-shaded area within the red shaded area shows the region of most significant down dropping and is currently the deepest part of Kīlauea caldera.” (Full-sized)

So there you have it.  Who would’ve thought the draining of the lava lake, which was minuscule compared to the whole summit caldera, would’ve had a domino effect this large?

The rest of this post is a fairly sparse weekend roundup of a few news stories, videos and photos, plus of course the usual science geeking with USGS. Which leaves you time to browse the USGS Thursday evening talk I transcribed today!
Continue reading July 1: Fissure 22 Is Back; Kilauea Caldera Is Sinking

June 28: USGS Talk on Latest Changes to Kīlauea Caldera [Pt. 2 of 3]

This continues my transcription of the Thurs Jun 28 USGS presentation at Volcano Village. Part 1 transcribed HVO Scientist-in-Charge Tina Neal and seismologist Kyle Anderson’s remarks. Part 2 covers senior volcanologist and my longtime hero Don Swanson’s remarks.

Here’s the video of the entire 1.5 hour meeting. Don’s presentation starts at 15:50:

It sounds like Swanson’s been holed up in Volcano House after HVO was evacuated. (Kyle Anderson: “Don has spent more time viewing this eruption from the summit than anyone else.”)

Title of talk: “Comparisons of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, May 19 through June 28
Viewed from dining room table of Volcano House”

Don Swanson, geologist, USGS

[15:50] Thanks, Kyle.

The data that Kyle showed are absolutely magnificent. What I want to do now is to show you some photographs of features that I’ve been able to see during my observations. The first will be a series of photographs of Halemaʻumaʻu taken from the seat in the dining room of the Volcano House hotel where I sit and observe things.

Screencap of first slide in Don Swanson’s presentation. In USGS archives: [May 19] [June 13]
On May 19th, of course, things were just starting to get going, but over here on June 13th, you can see that the crater has widened dramatically, and notice that it’s also dropped to the top of the tree which was way below the— it’s come way down. It isn’t because the tree is growing! It’s because the crater is dropping down.

Now we’ll go to this next period, June 13th to the 17th.

Continue reading June 28: USGS Talk on Latest Changes to Kīlauea Caldera [Pt. 2 of 3]

June 30: Kapoho Beach Lots Burning Again

Fissure 8 continues to behave much as it has for the last month or so, looking ever more like a Mordor backdrop:

June 30, 2018: Fissure 8 looking Mordor-like during the USGS morning overflight. (Full-sized)

Today’s official HVO Kilauea update is a copy-and-paste of yesterday’s, apart from this small addition describing the lava delta: “lava is moving beneath the crust and into [the] still-molten interior of earlier flows before it enters the sea in multiple oozeouts.” Like this:

USGS: “Lava was entering the ocean over a broad area this morning. This image shows an active entry area along the northern flow front at Kapoho. View to the south.” (Full-sized)

Unfortunately, some of those “oozeouts” are occurring at the edge of Kapoho Beach Lots as well. At least one home burned today, perhaps more.

Check the Hawaii County Fire Department photos later in this post (or the Bruce Omori photos at the end of the post) to see what the slow-moving expansion into Kapoho Beach Lots looks like right now.

USGS: “View of Kīlauea Volcano’s summit [from Volcano House, I think]. The brown visible dust coming from Halema‘uma‘u is from rockfalls.” (Full-sized)

Kilauea’s summit is changing visibly day by day. Today’s collapse explosion came at 2:51pm, 31 hours after the previous event. Mag 5.3, as usual, with a 500-foot ash-poor plume (captured on livestream). It was somewhat obscured by dust from multiple rockfalls 3 minutes earlier. Here’s a before-and-after:

More USGS Morning Overflight Photos

Continue reading June 30: Kapoho Beach Lots Burning Again

June 28: USGS Talk on Latest Changes to Kilauea Caldera [Pt. 1 of 3]

On Thursday, there was an hour and a half meeting with the USGS, National Park Service and residents of Volcano Village. Above is a video of the whole meeting. As usual, I’m interested in the geology, and so I’ve made a transcript of that part of the meeting. The first half of Kyle Anderson’s talk rehashes the “collapse/explosion” events that we’ve covered before, but the second half has a timelapse of Halema’uma’u from June 1st to June 28th — which I’ve rebuilt frame by frame, since I could just make out the timestamps— plus the latest Digital Elevation Model of Kilauea’s summit showing the slumping not only in Halema’uma’u, but across part of the caldera floor.

Scientist-in-Charge Tina Neal (HVO)

[5:40] [Introductory remarks, greetings and thanks]

[6:20] So tonight you’ll hear from familiar faces, Kyle Anderson and Don Swanson, who will give you an update on what the volcano is doing, what we think is happening, and we’ll touch on this very important question of how long and how big. Those are very hard questions to answer, so let me just preview that we’re not going to give you a wonderful take-away that will solve all that uncertainty. But we’ll do the best we can.

Continue reading June 28: USGS Talk on Latest Changes to Kilauea Caldera [Pt. 1 of 3]

June 29: New Ways to Watch Changes at the Summit

Today’s Eruption Summary

Fissure 8 and the summit explosions continue their status quo. However, for the last few days, the lava flow at Kapoho has been encroaching on new areas on its northern and southern boundaries at the coast.

At least 3 more Kapoho Beach Lot houses have burned on the north side, and the southern edge of the flow is burning vegetation and/or farmland west of Highway 137. I gather these new lateral outbreaks are due to the lava channel crusting over, about half a mile inland from the new coastline (see Wednesday’s thermal map). So instead of pouring straight from the channel into the ocean, lava is fanning out under the crust of the 2-mile-wide lava delta laid down earlier this month, then oozing out the sides.

[USGS drone footage of Fissure 8 from before dawn. They’re using drones for the first time to map flows, look for outbreaks and measure the lava river’s speed.]

At Kilauea’s summit, today’s collapse explosion occurred at 7:51am HST, June 29, with an ash-poor steam plume that rose 500 feet. (Steam?)The energy release dropped slightly to 5.2. I didn’t do a video capture, since the summit was blanketed in morning fog.

The “new news” today is that HVO has added two new views to its Kilauea Webcams page. One I’ve mentioned before, the old “Kilauea East” webcam from HVO’s 1990s website which has annoying reflections but a great view of the subsidence/collapse on the east side of Halema’uma’u Crater:

June 25, 2018 screengrab from “Kilauea East” webcam.

The other is a new heat-sensitive webcam which should make it possible to see “collapse explosions” at night:

Screengrab of Halema’uma’u Thermal webcam at sunset, June 29.

Also, in this week’s “Volcano Watch” newsletter, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists explain the “piston” model they’ve developed to account for the daily collapse explosions at the summit:

(See also the “Kilauea Earthquakes FAQ” they posted earlier this week.)

This is big news. They’ve solved the mystery of the summit explosions! Subject to revision, of course; they’re still untangling the complexities of Kilauea’s current eruption. But the “piston” model accounts for the cyclical pattern they’re seeing better than the “steam explosion” model.

Continue reading June 29: New Ways to Watch Changes at the Summit