June 5: Kapoho Bay Is No More

Today’s Eruption Summary:
Kapoho Bay Before and After filled with Lava
USGS overflights of Kapoho Bay, morning of June 3 and June 5.

Lava reached Kapoho Bay on Saturday night, around 10:30. By Tuesday morning, it was Kapoho Point. There were hundreds of homes here, plus farms, tidepools, and marine life.

There’s really not much more one can say.

(See Mick Kalber’s observations/notes for this video)

There was another small predawn ash explosion up at Kilauea’s summit, where we can now watch the changes to Halema’uma’u Crater (see below). HI Civil Defense, the Dept. of Health and EPA have set up a new network of sensors to monitor and report air quality in realtime, which should help the rest of the island.

But Vacationland and Kapoho Beach Lots have now followed the 1960 village of Kapoho into memory.


Of course, that’s not the whole story for today. There’s new images and videos, USGS updates and info, articles on the eruption’s impact from local Hawaiian news outlets, and eyewitness reports and reactions on social media. So here’s the usual daily roundup of Kilauea eruption news.

Continue reading June 5: Kapoho Bay Is No More

June 4: Lava Enters Kapoho Bay

june 4 Kilauea Eruption Summary / Infographic by USGS
Text version at link: June 4 Kilauea Infographic, HVO/USGS

Latest numbers: 
Lava coverage ~7.7 square miles, 19.9 square km, 4917 acres.
Janet Snyder, spokesperson from Hawai’i County Mayor’s Office, says at least 117 homes destroyed, but Civil Defense admin Talmadge Magno says probably “a lot more”

Here’s a video clip and two screengrabs to sum up Kilauea’s activity today: a half-mile-wide a’a flow pouring into Kapoho Bay and slowly filling it, while the summit steams weakly after a 5.5 earthquake yesterday.

Kapoho Bay, USGS overflight, 6:13am (HST) this morning:

Screengrabs from the Halema’uma’u and LERZ webcams about 3pm:

Taken from Overlook Vent Wide Angle Webcam, HVO/USGS, Jun 4, 3pm local time. Only light steam.
Screengrab from USGS/HVO Lower East Rift Zone webcam, June 4, 3pm. Fissure 8 still fountaining away with broad lava flow issuing to right (northeast), heading down to Kapoho.

ETA: Oh, look. Perfect angle of the sun right now.

Jun 4, 6:20 pm – Nice webcam image from HVO.

Additional info from HVO morning status report: “Local videographers reported that lava entered the ocean at Kapoho Bay at about 10:30 PM HST on June 3. […] A lava breakout is also occurring upslope [north] of the Kapoho cone cinder pit, with active flows about 330 yards southeast of the intersection of Railroad Avenue and Cinder Road..   […]Following the small [M5.5] explosion at about 3:50 PM HST on June 3, earthquake activity at the summit has been low. Inward slumping of the rim and walls of Halema`uma`u continues in response to persistent subsidence. ”


June 4 Kilauea Eruption Digest:
  • USGS Info/Updates
  • Posts from Other Geologists
  • National Park Damage Report
  • News from Hawaiian Media
  • Images/Videos From Social Media

Continue reading June 4: Lava Enters Kapoho Bay

June 3: Kapoho’s Lava Woes and Guatemala’s Heartbreak

I write with a heavy heart tonight.

While Kilauea claims homes, possessions, and places people loved— and animals, sadly— it’s a relatively benign volcano (as long as it remains in its lava-gushing “effusive phase”). Its “ballistic rocks” can’t fly much farther than half a mile. Ash and vog hamper quality of life, but aren’t instantly deadly. Its lava moves slowly enough for people to escape. Lava creates new land while it destroys, and it breaks down eventually into fertile soil. While it’s destructive, it’s also beautiful:

This is a "waterfall" of lava pouring into Green Lake that is inside the Kapoho Crater on Green Mountain. The lake…

Posted by Don Hurzeler on Sunday, June 3, 2018

That’s the life’s blood of a shield volcano like Kilauea. But there’s another kind of volcano I’ve mentioned before: stratovolcanoes like Krakatoa and Mount St. Helens. Their silica-rich, stiff, sticky lava piles up into steep mountains that can bottle up tremendous pressure before letting go. I’m afraid that’s probably what happened in Guatemala today.

Careless news media (even the BBC!) are claiming that a river of lava from volcan del Fuego killed over 20 people and injured dozens more. But all the videos I saw (apart from videos of Leilani Estates passed off as Guatemala) show pyroclastic flows:

Not that scary-looking, eh? But nighttime shows the true face of a pyroclastic flow (Sinabung, Indonesia).

Dr. Janine Krippner pointed out this brief informative video explaining what pyroclastic flows are and why they’re so dangerous. Here’s the Spanish language version. Hearing-impaired? See What Is a Pyroclastic Flow? or ¿Qué son los flujos piroclásticos?

Please spare some compassionate thoughts for the Guatemalans caught in this eruption. Most of them probably thought those gray clouds were just (cooled) ash, like what’s irritating Hawaiians living downwind from Halema’uma’u. (No, Kilauea’s not going to do that.)

Today’s kilauea eruption summary
USGS caption: “Photo from 7AM helicopter overflight, hovering offshore and looking up the flowfront. Nearly all of the front was active and advancing; advance rates were estimated at an average of 250 feet/hour (76 m/hr), and as of 7AM the flow was 500 yards (457 m) from the ocean.” (Full-sized)

As for Kilauea, the main news today was fissure 8’s lava flow making its finall approach to the shore through the Kapoho Beach Lots/Vacationland area.

And as if in response to news media headlines claiming it’s “fallen quiet,” the summit woke up again with a whole popcorn-popper’s worth of earthquakes, including a beefy M5.5 in the afternoon and an ash cloud rising to 8,000 feet.

Here’s my daily digest of Kilauea eruption news, including:

  • Updates/info from the USGS and other geologists
  • eruption news from Hawaii Civil Defense
  • Local news stations covering the eruption and its impact
  • relevant social media posts by informed eyewitnesses

Continue reading June 3: Kapoho’s Lava Woes and Guatemala’s Heartbreak

June 2: Kapoho Isolated, Green Lake Evaporated

Today’s Eruption Summary:

After several days of anticipation, Fissure 8 arrived at last at Four Corners, the intersection of Highway 132 & 137. That gave local residents more time to retrieve their belongs before access to and from the Kapoho/Vacationland area was cut off.

USGS Caption: Northern edge of the fissure 8 flow front on the night of June 1, as it approached the intersection of Highways 132 and 137, known as “Four Corners.” (Full-sized)

Sadly, while people can evacuate, precious landmarks can’t. Today Green Lake seems to have gone the same way as the Queen’s Bath in Kalapana:

USGS Caption: “As fissure 8 lava flowed into Green Lake, the lake water boiled away, sending a white plume high into the sky—visible from afar between around 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. HST. This aerial photo, taken a couple of hours later by the Hawai‘i County Fire Department, shows still-steaming lava within Green Lake, located near the intersection of Highways 132 and 137.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 18 fell asleep before its flow could cross 137 again, but at this point, it hardly matters.

The summit was steaming with minimal ash today. However, news headlines claiming “crater falls quiet” may be greatly exaggerated. Time will tell.

USGS Morning Update

Continue reading June 2: Kapoho Isolated, Green Lake Evaporated

May 31: One Month On

It’s been exactly a month since the first lava started emerging from fissures in Leilani Estates on May 3. And what a month it’s been.

USGS Caption: Crews make visual observations of activity at fissure 8 around 5:30 am HST. Fountain heights this morning continue to reach 70 to 80 m (230 to 260 ft above ground level. The fountaining feeds a lava flow that is moving to the northeast along Highway 132 into the area of Noni Farms Road. Full-sized)

The Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) eruption has built in intensity by stages. Earthquakes, cracks, fissures, toxic gasses, spattering lava, larger and longer lava flows, and increasingly voluminous fountains have slowly engulfed two subdivisions and the forests and fields of lower Puna. They’ve heaped up acres of spatter ramparts, thick lava flows, overflowing ponds and rivers creeping down to the ocean. They’ve emitted a’a and pahoehoespatter and lava bombs, Pele’s Hair and Pele’s Tears, tephra/pyroclasts and cinders, vog, laze, and glowing blue flames.

Meanwhile, Pu’u O’o on Kilauea’s shoulder drained and died after a historic 35-year-long eruption. The summit lava lake in Halema’uma’u Crater followed suit, draining away more gradually but no less dramatically, with rockfalls and earthquakes and clouds of ash rising as high as 15,000 feet. Downwind communities are suffering from its ash and vog. The threat of steam explosions sending rocks flying half a mile has forced the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. That, coupled with jittery tourist cancellations, has struck almost as big a blow to the rest of the Big Island as lava has done to a few square miles of Puna.

The USGS and Hawaii Civil Defense have done a herculean job of monitoring, informing, warning, and moving people out of harm’s way in this fast-moving and complex natural disaster. And locals are rallying as best they can to support one another.

Today’s Eruption Summary

Kilauea’s still pulling some (alas, not all) of its punches. Early Wednesday morning, Fissure 8’s lava flow was surging towards Four Corners in sprints up to 600 yards an hour, causing emergency officials to go door to door ordering emergency evacuations. Luckily, it’s slowed, although it’s still inching towards the last remaining road in and out of Puna. People have had two precious days to go back and rescue pets and possessions before the lava cuts them off.

Meanwhile, the summit today was steaming with minor ash explosions. The USGS just released another drone survey of Halema’uma’u filmed May 26:

See caption on USGS website, and compare with drone footage of May 21.

USGS STATUS UPDATE: MAY 31 9:30 AM

Continue reading May 31: One Month On

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 30: Pele Makes A Run For Four Corners

Today’s Eruption Summary

In fact, the current lava eruptions in Puna are as hot as Hawaii’s lava will ever get. “It can’t get hotter than where we are,” Stovall added. “We are pretty much tapping mantle temperatures right now.”

Honolulu Civil Beat

USGS Photo – Caption: “Lava flow erupted from fissure 8, photographed during HVO’s early morning overflight today. The lava channel was estimated to be about 100 feet wide.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 8 is beauty & the beast. Since Saturday it’s been pumping out a huge volume of lava, creating pahoehoe and even a’a flows that occasionally surge up to ~600yards/hour. Yesterday its main flow headed NE, skirted the geothermal plant, crossed and followed Hwy 132 for a while, and then started downslope past Noni Farms towards Four Corners, threatening to cut off Kapoho and Lower Puna.

Amazing overflight photo of Fissure 8 and its lava flow taken on May 29 by Hawaii Civil Defense. (Full-sized)

In the early morning hours, officials went door-to-door in the Kapoho area ordering emergency evacuations.  Newly-paved Beach Rd was pressed into service as a one-way evacuation route from Four Corners to Hawaiian Beaches. But it’s a race against time, as the lava is headed for that very road.

[ETA: Mick Kalber’s flyover. He’s always got notes on the video’s page.]

I saw no PGV news today, which is good. The summit produced yet more ash & earthquakes, one a pretty good thump (Mag 5.3 at 10:57am, no tsunami). Meanwhile, Fissure 18 is sending a channelized flow towards Hwy 137, just a little east of last week’s flows to the ocean:

TUESDAY EVENING IN PAHOA: USGS BRIEFING

Continue reading May 30: Pele Makes A Run For Four Corners

May 28: Rivers of Fire, Lava Livestream is back

Today’s Eruption Summary

About 7PM yesterday, a large pahoehoe flow suddenly burst out and went galloping through Leilani Estates. Civil Defense called for emergency evacuations. Firefighters had to guide one person to safety (with assistance of drone team tracking lava) when the flow covered his drivewayUSGS and Civil Defense reported that vigorous fountains 7 and especially 8 were responsible for the outbreak: fountaining 150-200 feet high, they built up a spatter rampart 100 feet tall and fueled a monster pahoehoe 20-40 feet thick. Speed augmented by the perched lava pond breaching (dam gave way, basically).

You can get a sense of last night’s outbreak from this timelapse of the Lower East Rift Zone webcam over the past few days.

The flows from yesterday slowed and stopped this morning. Most of the day’s activity was fairly subdued, with “only a minor ooze of residual lava” making it down to the ocean. But this evening, fissure 8 and other vents went into overdrive again, pouring out rivers of lava and prompting more emergency evacuations (Civil Defense notice) (HVO/USGS Alert).

Lava livestream

Honolulu Civil Beat is back to let us watch nature’s pyrotechnics from about 2km away and a crucial 200 feet up.

It’s mesmerizing to watch, but a sobering sight as well, knowing homes downstream are burning and some people are in danger. 

I can’t watch now; I have a post to write. Where was I? Continue reading May 28: Rivers of Fire, Lava Livestream is back

May 27: First Well Covered; Emergency Evacuations From Fast-Moving Lava

The dramatic light show I noticed on the East Rift Zone webcam last night was probably from fissure 7, featured on today’s Mick Kalber helicopter flyover (warning: noisy).


(Blog post: Mick Kalber’s observations from this flight)

Most of today’s news is about marauding lava flows in the Lower East Rift Zone, but the ESA just posted another satellite radar image of changes at Kilauea’s summit:


[EDIT] Things got a little TOO exciting this evening, and I kept having to update this post…

Continue reading May 27: First Well Covered; Emergency Evacuations From Fast-Moving Lava

May 25: End of the Road for Leilani Estates?

It looks like the coup de grace for Leilani Estates, or at least its eastern part.

USG Photo, May 25, noon overflight. Fissures 6 (left) and 13 (right) send lava flows south that join and flow down to ocean (white laze plume in distance). Note metal roof(?) embedded in lava at lower left. [Full-sized]
Three weeks ago Leilani’s streets were lacerated by fissures, battered by lava spattering from cracks, and blocked off by ponderous flows that seldom traveled far from their source. But that was a slow-motion disaster. Most fissures were active only a few hours. While a few unlucky residents lost homes in the first wave, most were able to return and collect vital possessions, or even risked dangerous fumes to stay.

Last week, the main lava activity shifted east, downrift, overrunning smaller Lanipuna Gardens, threatening the PGV geothermal plant, and inundating fields and woods where homes were more scattered.  “Hotter, fresher” magma arrived last Thursday with a roar, spurting in several-hundred foot fountains and flooding forests with rivers of fast-moving pahoehoe lava. On Saturday night, these channels reached the ocean.

It was only a reprieve. A few days ago, the fissures that had given Leilani grief began reactivating. The group of fountains monitored by HCB’s livestream began to subside as uprift vents pilfered their magma supply.  Leilani’s reinvigorated vents poured out so much lava they created a pond, as well as sending new flows down to the sea. And through people’s houses:

Today, more streets were buried. Firefighters went door-to-door urging the last holdouts to flee before lava reaches them. Even parts of lower Puna not yet menaced by lava were ordered to leave before their remaining escape routes are cut off. Just in case, authorities have sent in the Marines.

82 structures lost. A two mile stretch of fissures in a residential area is pouring out an astonishing 40-60 cubit feet per second. And yet only 3.4 square miles have been covered by lava in this eruption, on an island of over 4000 square miles. But that doesn’t make it any easier for those affected.

Below, a roundup of Friday’s images, videos, USGS news, and reports from local news stations.

Continue reading May 25: End of the Road for Leilani Estates?