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Kīlauea volcano eruption update - part 6 (Nov 2016 - Apr 2018)

Kilauea volcano
Shield volcano 1277 m (4,190 ft)
Hawai'i, 19.41°N / -155.29°W
Current status: restless (2 out of 5)
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Kilauea volcano eruptions:
Near-continuous eruptions. Since 1960: 1961 (4x), 1962, 1963 (2x), 1965 (2x), 1967-68, 1968 (2x), 1969, 1969-74, 1971 (2x), 1973 (2x), 1974 (3x), 1975, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982 (2x), 1983-2018 (ongoing, incl. 1986, 1992, 1997, 2007, 2011 (3x)), 2018 (lower east rift zone in Leilani subdivision)
Typical eruption style:
Dominantly effusive since 1790, but ~60% explosive over past ~2500 years.
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Summit lava lake overflows
Update Wed 25 Apr 2018 04:45
Kīlauea Volcano's Halema‘uma‘u crater with the overflow (silver gray) of the lava lake, which occurred from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on 23 April 2018 (image: USGS / HVO)
Kīlauea Volcano's Halema‘uma‘u crater with the overflow (silver gray) of the lava lake, which occurred from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on 23 April 2018 (image: USGS / HVO)
The lava lake inside the pit crater in Halema'uma'u crater has repeatedly overflowed its rims and flooded parts of the crater floor. It remains at high levels and more overflows are likely to occur in the near future.
USGS / HVO issued the following update:

"High lava lake levels in the informally named “Overlook crater” within Halemaʻumaʻu at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano have resulted in a series of overflows of lava onto the Halemaʻumaʻu crater floor beginning late on April 21 and continuing intermittently through this morning. These are the first significant overflows of the summit lava lake since May 2015 (a small overflow also occurred in October 2016). Accompanying this high stand of lava within the Overlook crater are nearly continuous areas of spattering along the margins of the lava lake, providing good views from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park’s Jaggar Museum Overlook. Sulphur dioxide gas emissions from the lake remain elevated.

Recent Observations

Since mid-March 2018, tiltmeters and GPS instruments have recorded an overall trend of inflationary tilt at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano reflecting an increase in the amount of magma in the shallow magmatic reservoir. In response, the lava lake within the Overlook crater has risen, reaching levels high enough for lava to flow over the crater rim and spread to the north, south, and southwest of the vent. A series of overflows, each lasting tens of minutes to several hours, occurred between April 21 and April 24. Between overflows, the lava column receded below the Overlook crater rim before rising again.

Based on HVO web camera records and direct observations, these flows are similar to those produced in the April-May 2015 overflows. They consist of lobate sheets of shelly pāhoehoe traveling as far as 375 m (about a quarter mile) across the floor of Halemaʻumaʻu. As of midday April 23, the new lava flows had covered about 40 acres (about 30 percent) of the floor of Halemaʻumaʻu. Each overflow also adds some height to the enclosing vent rim.

Photos of the overflows can be seen on the HVO web site at: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/kilauea_multimedia_15.html

Beginning in mid-April 2018 and continuing through the current high lava lake level and subsequent overflows, HVO seismometers recorded an uptick in small earthquakes beneath Kīlauea’s summit and upper East Rift Zone reflecting increased pressurization. However, unlike the April-May 2015 event, no bursts of earthquakes or deformation indicating an intrusion of magma into the southern caldera region of Kilauea have yet been recorded.

Although Kīlauea’s summit and East Rift Zone magma systems are connected, with changes at one sometimes leading to changes at the other, the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone has shown no direct response to the recent overflows. However, HVO tiltmeters, GPS, web cameras, and field observations, continue to record inflation of Puʻu ʻŌʻō and the upper portion of the Episode 61g lava tube system, which could lead to the opening of a new vent on or near Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō. If/when that happens, it is possible, even likely, that the summit lava lake will be affected, most likely by a significant drop in the lake level.

Hazard Analysis

High levels of sulfur dioxide gas, rockfalls, and explosions remain the primary hazards of concern. While the lake level is high, the risk of rockfalls and subsequent explosion of molten spatter and rock debris onto the southeast rim of Halemaʻumaʻu is slightly elevated due to the shorter vertical distance from the lake surface to the crater rim. These rockfalls and explosions can occur suddenly and without warning, underscoring the extremely hazardous nature of the Halema'uma'u rim, an area that has been closed to the public since late 2007." (USGS / HVO)
Video (time-lapse) of Kilauea's summit lava lake during 6 months
Update Wed 18 Apr 2018 08:15
USGS warns a new vent could form soon near Pu'u 'O'o
Update Wed 18 Apr 2018 07:18
The lava lake in Halema'uma'u crater seen on 17 April morning (phot: HVO / USGS)
The lava lake in Halema'uma'u crater seen on 17 April morning (phot: HVO / USGS)
Inflation at Pu'u 'O'o (distance between two opposite points on crater) as measured by GPS during the past year, showing the current strong inflation (image: HVO / USGS)
Inflation at Pu'u 'O'o (distance between two opposite points on crater) as measured by GPS during the past year, showing the current strong inflation (image: HVO / USGS)
Recent earthquakes (1 week) beneath Kileaua showing an increase in small quakes (red circles are quakes above mag. 2)
Recent earthquakes (1 week) beneath Kileaua showing an increase in small quakes (red circles are quakes above mag. 2)
Tilt of summit and Pu'u O'o during the past week showing the turn towards deflation at the summit but continuing inflation at Puu Oo (image: HVO / USGS)
Tilt of summit and Pu'u O'o during the past week showing the turn towards deflation at the summit but continuing inflation at Puu Oo (image: HVO / USGS)
During the past month, the activity at Kilauea has shown an increasing trend with some very interesting developments, both at the summit and at the rift zone:
At the summit, the lava lake inside Halema'uma'u summit crater has risen significantly and approached the rims of the containing pit crater, in tandem with a recent period of inflation of the summit. Since last night (morning of 17 April on Hawai'i), this trend seems to have come to an end, though: Summit deflation was recorded and the lava lake level has dropped slightly. When measured, the lake was about 14 m (46 ft) below the Overlook crater rim, having dropped roughly 4 m (13 ft) since 16 April.

Magma accumulating beneath Pu'u 'O'o on East Rift zone:
Visual observation and measurements (tilt, seismic activity) lead to the conclusion that the magma system beneath Pu'u 'Ō'ō has become increasingly pressurized. Since mid March, deformation measurements (tilt and GPS) have revealed a strong inflation of Pu'u 'O'o; the crater floor has been uplifted by several meters and small lava flows have erupted onto its floor. USGS posted an animated gif that shows this uplift.
The interpretation is that a larger amount of magma is currently being stored at shallow depths beneath the vent. What will this mean?

New vent opening?
If this trend at Pu'u 'O'o continues, it is a likely scenario that the magma will open a new vent in the near future, and thus herald a new episode of the ongoing eruption. According to USGS's latest statement, "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."
"Similar episodes of inflation and uplift of the crater floor at Pu'u 'Ō'ō occurred in May–June 2014 and May 2016", USGS added. "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."
Whether and where exactly a new vent might open is impossible to predict, but the most likely scenario would be a new vent located on the cone of Pu'u 'Ō'ō or at its base. It would erupt lava flows "onto one or more sides of the cone that would initially advance downslope rapidly within a few kilometers (miles) 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." (USGS)

On top of the current unrest at the summit and the Pu'u 'O'o crater, the number of earthquakes beneath the upper east rift zone closer to the caldera also have increased during the past weeks.

Lava flows on the pali
In the meanwhile, the 61g lava flow remains active and continues to produce scattered lava flows mainly above and on the pali, as well as in the coastal flat near the base of the pali. No surface lava has been coming close to the sea during the past months. Rather, the lava flows have been accumulating sheets of pahoehoe on top of each other.
Impressions from this activity can be found on our latest photo gallery showing lava flows on the morning of 22 March.
Ocean entry stops, new lava flows on pali
Update Thu 16 Nov 2017 01:31
Lava flows on the pali from Kilauea's episode 61g flow yesterday night (14 Nov 2017)
Lava flows on the pali from Kilauea's episode 61g flow yesterday night (14 Nov 2017)
After 16 months of continuous activity, the Kamokuna lava entry into the ocean stopped a few days ago. It had decreased gradually over the past weeks and intermittently resumed during the past days, probably fed by remaining batches of lava in the lower tube system that fed it.
It seems that the main lava tube further upslope feeding the 61g lava flow became obstructed, forcing the lava to break out at the surface. When we visited the area yesterday evening, we witnessed a large breakout from a new vent on the upper pali, which fed multiple rapidly advancing channeled aa lava flows descending the pali into the upper coastal plain.
Two wide-spread pahoehoe lava flow branches with scattered breakouts are active in the upper half of the coastal plain above the (now inactive) Kamokuna ocean entry. It seems likely that lava will find its way to the sea again in a near future.
Lava lake at high level, fire hose stopped
Update Tue 21 Mar 2017 21:29
Kilauea's summit lava lake as of this morning (image: HVO webcam)
Kilauea's summit lava lake as of this morning (image: HVO webcam)
Tilt at Kilauea showin the current inflation (image: HVO)
Tilt at Kilauea showin the current inflation (image: HVO)
Accompanied by ongoing inflationary tilt, the Halema'uma'u lava lake at Kilauea's summit continues to rise and was about 14.5 m (48 ft) below the pit crater's rim this morning. It is currently very well visible from the Jagger Museum's lookout.
At the Kamokuna ocean entry, the fire hose - which was going on very strongly last week (see video below) - had stopped over night and when observed this morning by boat, only a much weaker lava fall was visible. In addition, a new lava bench has finally started to form at the entry point, suggesting that after 2 1/2 months of fire hose activity, the submarine landslide scar seems to have been "healed" (filled-in with lava) sufficiently to support a new bench. Whether this will be stable for at least some time or soon collapse again, and whether the lava output from the exposed tube will again increase sufficiently to produce a free, arched fire hose is impossible to predict.
The surface lava flow at the eastern margin of the episode 61g lava flow remains well active between near the base of the pali and about half way to the coast, with multiple active pahoehoe breakouts when we visited the area last evening.
A possibility is that the amount of lava being diverted from the main tube into these breakouts caused the fire hose at the ocean entry to weaken.
Despite these events at the surface, there is no fundamental change in the ongoing eruption as such and other parameters monitored by HVO are currently not showing any significant variations (low seismicity, average gas output etc).
Short video of Kilauea's Fire Hose into the ocean (18 Mar 2017):

Continuing lava hose flowing into sea, active lava lake
Update Fri 17 Mar 2017 03:03
Kilauea's spectacular fire hose - the exposed open lava tube feeding a jet of lava plunging into the sea
Kilauea's spectacular fire hose - the exposed open lava tube feeding a jet of lava plunging into the sea
Kilauea's summit lava lake
Kilauea's summit lava lake
No significant changes have occurred over the past weeks. Kīlauea volcano continues to erupt from at its summit (active lava lake in Halema'uma'u) and from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on the East Rift Zone. From the latter, the s-called 61g lava flow travels southeast, mostly through a lava tube, which enters the ocean in form of a spectacular fire hose at Kamokuna.
Small surface breakouts from this lava flow are also present above and on the pali as well as half-way between the coast and the base of the pali when visited by our ongoing Kilauea Volcano Special tour.
A short period of deflation (which has caused a temporary drop of the lava lake to be out of view from Jagger lookout) ended yesterday and the lava lake level rose again to about 23.5 m (77 ft) below the Overlook crater rim when measured this morning.
Seismic activity is at low levels and no other parameters suggest any unusual activity.
Lava lake remains active, new surface breakout lava flows
Update Wed 15 Feb 2017 11:16
Halema'uma'us summit lava lake yesterday (image: HVO)
Halema'uma'us summit lava lake yesterday (image: HVO)
The dual eruption of Kilauea volcano, both at the summit (maintaining an active lava lake in Halema'uma'u crater) and from the east rift zone (lava flows from Pu'u 'O'o) continues with no significant changes.
The lava lake at the summit continues to rise and fall along with inflation and deflation cycles. At the moment, it is relatively high and can be seen from the Jagger museum's lookout.
The so-called 61g lava flow from Pu'u 'O'o remains active and continues to enter the ocean at Kamokuna. Since the large collapse on 31 Dec last year, the cliffs remain highly unstable in that area. Another collapse occurred on 11 Feb. and affected a small piece of the sea cliff west of the active ocean entry.
In addition to the sea entry, two areas of active surface lava flows have emerged, possibly because part of the main lava tube collapsed or became obstructed. One is close to the vent (Puʻu ʻŌʻō), within about 2.4 km (1.5 mi) SE, the other one is in the coastal plain.
The latter field of lava breakouts is also easily accessible (for experienced hikers), providing spectacular views of active pahoehoe lava flows from close.

Lava delta collapses 31 Dec 2016, lava continues to flow into ocean

Wider map of the Kamokuna sea entry (HVO)
Wider map of the Kamokuna sea entry (HVO)
On 31 Dec 2016, a very large delta collapse occurred and removed nearly all of the Kamokuna lava sea delta which had been forming since July 2016. The collapse also involved a significant portion of the older cliff INCLUDING a small part of the previous public viewing area.
Lava hose at the sea entry after the collapse (HVO)
Lava hose at the sea entry after the collapse (HVO)

The collapse exposed the main active lava tube feeding the sea entry, which since then has been in the form of a spectacular lava hose jetting into the sea. No significant new lava delta has been formed since, probably because the collapse left a steep submarine slope onto which new material has so far only been slumping down without creating new land.
Detail map of the collapse-afffected area
Detail map of the collapse-afffected area

New lava breakout continues to advance
Update Mon 28 Nov 2016 17:33
The new lava breakout near Puu Oo on 22 Nov 2016 (image: USGS)
The new lava breakout near Puu Oo on 22 Nov 2016 (image: USGS)
Current deformation plot (blue line: summit inflation/ deflation) (HVO)
Current deformation plot (blue line: summit inflation/ deflation) (HVO)
Essentially, the eruption continues unchanged. The lava lake in the summit caldera fluctuates in level and was 17 m (56 ft) below the floor of Halema'uma'u crater yesterday. It is expected to rise again now that a new inflation cycle has started. The new surface lava breakout which started 22 Nov from a point east of Pu'u 'O'o high up on the lava tube of the active 61g flow continues to advance and feed a new flow field that has now reached a bit more than 1 km length. The major part of the lava from the 61g lava flow, however, continues to stay in the main tube and arrives in the ocean at Kamokuna where several entry points are active and provide a great show as we could admire 10 days ago during one of our Kilauea Special tours: Active lava breakouts are present inland from the ocean entry and in the upper portion of the 61g flow field southeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō.
High lava lake level, continuing ocean entry
Update Tue 15 Nov 2016 08:27
The lava sea entry at Kamokuna on 13 Nov 2016 evening (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
The lava sea entry at Kamokuna on 13 Nov 2016 evening (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
Littoral explosion (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
Littoral explosion (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
The eruption continues both at the summit and on the eastern rift zone with no significant changes. The level of the summit lava lake in Halema'uma'u crater fluctuates, but rose to within around 9 m (30 ft) below the rim this morning, accompanied by inflationary tilt. If the progress continues, it might again overflow soon. Lava continues to flow from Pu'u O'o (the vent on the eastern rift zone) through a tube into the ocean at the eastern Kamokuna sea entry. No or only very small lava breakouts occur along its path. The sea entry consisted of 4 major entry points when observed last evening, and was producing mild littoral explosions.

 

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