Kilauea volcano: Magma system becomes increasingly pressurized, Hawaii


Observations and measurements of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption on Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone during the past month suggest that the magma system beneath Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō has become increasingly pressurized, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported April 17. If this activity continues, a new vent could form at any time, either on the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō cone or along adjacent areas of the East Rift Zone, it added.

Summit tiltmeters recorded deflationary tilt over the past 24 hours, leveling off earlier this morning, HVO said April 18. The summit lava lake level is about 20 m (66 feet) below the rim of the Overlook crater, a drop of about 7 m (23 feet) since yesterday morning. Lava spattering is barely visible from the Jaggar Museum at this time. Seismicity in the summit area is within normal, background rates, with tremor amplitude fluctuations associated with lava lake spattering. Elevated summit sulfur dioxide emission rates persist. 

The Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption continues to supply lava to the 61g flow and the lava pond within the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater. As of April 13, 2018, geologists observed scattered breakouts from the 61g flow within about 2.2 km (1.4 miles) from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō and a sluggish breakout about 5 km (3.1 miles) from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō. During the past few weeks, lava flows have also erupted onto the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater floor. 

61g lava flow on April 13, 2018

Image credit: USGS/HVO

Since mid-March 2018, a tiltmeter and GPS station on Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō have recorded a pronounced inflationary trend of the cone, and recent webcam images have detected simultaneous uplift of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater floor by several meters (yards). These observations provide evidence that magma is accumulating at shallow depths beneath Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō.

Similar episodes of inflation and uplift of the crater floor at Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō occurred in May–June 2014 and May 2016. These episodes preceded the opening of new vents on Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō that produced the June 27th flow (active 2014-2016) and the 61g flow (active since 2016), respectively.

Breakouts from the 61g lava flow are located close to Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō and above the Pulama pali within the Kahaualeʻa Natural Area Reserve (NAR) and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, respectively.

Because of volcanic hazards, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has restricted public access to the Kahauale‘a NAR since 2007 (https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/ecosystems/nars/hawaii-island/kahaualea-2/). Areas within the National Park are also closed (see https://www.nps.gov/havo/closed_areas.htm for more info on these closures).

The current location of active surface lava is not accessible to hikers and is predominantly in a closed area. Hikers and visitors to the lower Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava flow field should be prepared for a variety of hazards, including, but not limited to: hard, rough, uneven and sharp terrain, which can lead to falls, abrasions, lacerations, and other injuries, as well as heat exhaustion or dehydration. 

Heavy rains can occur with little warning, producing a steamy ground-fog on recent flows that severely limits visibility. This steam can be acidic and should be avoided. 

No services are available on the lava flow field and cell reception is limited, HVO said.

A new vent located on the cone of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō would erupt lava flows onto one or more sides of the cone that would initially advance downslope rapidly within a few kilometers from the vent.

Because of the potential for a sudden breakout anywhere on Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō, the cone is extremely hazardous. The location of a new vent or potential lava-flow paths cannot be estimated until such time that a new vent forms and stabilizes.

Kilauea on April 19, 2018

This image is from a research camera mounted in the observation tower at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The camera is looking SSE towards the active vent in Halemaʻumaʻu, 1.9 km (1.2 miles) from the webcam. For scale, the crater wall of Halemaʻumaʻu behind the eruptive vent is about 85 m (~280 feet) high. Image credit: USGS/HVO

Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone eruption began in January 1983 with high lava fountains that built a cinder-and-spatter cone, later named Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō. Subsequent activity included continuous lava effusion from vents on Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō or within a few kilometers (miles) east or west of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō. Most of the lava flows erupted from these vents have advanced down the south flank of Kīlauea, often reaching the ocean.

A new vent that opened on the northeast flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō on June 27, 2014, sent a lava flow (informally called the June 27th flow) 20 km (12.4 miles) to the northeast and into Pāhoa, a town in the Puna District of the Island of Hawai‘i. This lava flow persisted until early March 2015, when all activity near Pāhoa ceased.

On May 24, 2016, the opening of a new vent on the east flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō led to the demise of the June 27th vent and flow, and sent a new lava flow (61g flow) south-southeast toward the ocean. The flow advanced about 10 km (6.2 miles), reaching the ocean on July 26, 2016. Lava stopped flowing into the ocean in early November 2017, after which surface flows have progressively retreated to near-vent areas above the Pulama pali.

Featured image credit: USGS/HVO


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One Comment

  1. News reports say that Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted on 4 May 2018 while some rumbling had started a week earlier. The development prompted evacuations and declaration of state of emergency. Obviously , the ash and lava being emitted by volcano eruption into sky has potential threat to the residents in the nearby area of health issues as well. The potential threat was , however , indicated by this Vedic astrology writer in alerts of 11 October , 2017 in article – “Astrological probable alerts for the United States in 2018” – published in monthly Webzine of Wisdom Magazine from the US at wisdom-magazine.com/Article.aspx/4647/ on 1 December , 2017. The text of the alert closely related to the point reads in the article as :-
    “ May-June 2018. ……… There may arise need to deal with some widespread diseases in one or more vulnerable States or regions as follow for July-August in 2018 here in this article unless prompt measures are put in place at the initial stage when such a scenario appears on the scene. So a close watch in that direction by the concerned health departments in the Govt could be useful”.
    The place of likely occurrence referred to in May-June 2018 was mentioned like this in the article :-
    “July-August in 2018. …. .. Some States which may keep a watch on any developing such scenario in one or more vulnerable States or regions like … .. . Hawaii Island. Increased watch in one or more of said States against likely volcano eruption , fire , earthquakes , leakages of one or more commodities like chemicals or gas , could be meaningful”.
    The aforesaid details of alert on 11 October , 2017 leave one in no doubt that volcano eruption in May-June , 2018 in Hawaii island was indicated by this writer for more care and appropriate strategy.

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