Volcanic Eruption Continues on Hawaii’s Big Island

Volcanic Activity at Big Island -- Courtesy USGS
Volcanic Activity at Big Island — Courtesy USGS

The United States Geological Survey continues to monitor ongoing volcanic activity at Kīlauea Volcano on Big Island in the State of Hawaii.

According to the USGS, the volcano continues to erupt in two locations and lava flow from Puʻu ʻŌʻō in the East Rift Zone is now entering the ocean at Kamokuna. A younger branch of the flow is active near Puʻu ʻŌʻō and advancing slowly east.

These lava flows pose no threat to nearby communities at this time, however, the USGS has issued “a strong caution to visitors viewing” the flow ocean entry (where lava meets the sea): “There are additional significant hazards besides walking on uneven surfaces and around unstable, extremely steep sea cliffs. Venturing too close to an ocean entry exposes you to flying debris created by the explosive interaction between lava and water. Also, the new land created is unstable because it is built on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand. This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf, causing the new land to become unsupported and slide into the sea. In several instances, such collapses, once started, have also incorporated parts of the older sea cliff. Prominent cracks observed in the surface of the relatively large eastern lava delta at Kamokuna indicate instability and an increased potential for larger collapse events. Finally, the interaction of lava with the ocean creates a corrosive seawater plume laden with hydrochloric acid and fine volcanic particles that can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.”

The lava lake at Kīlauea’s summit continues to circulate, with periods of spattering occurring sporadically. Inflationary tilt at the Summit continues along with a rise in lava lake level. Seismic activity continues at a low rate overall, with a magnitude 3.8 felt earthquake occurring last night on the Kīlauea Volcano south flank.

A younger branch of the flow is active near Puʻu ʻŌʻō and advancing slowly east, however, officials say, these lava flows pose no threat to nearby communities at this time.

“The lava lake at Kīlauea’s summit continues to circulate, with periods of spattering occurring sporadically. Inflationary tilt at the Summit continues along with a rise in lava lake level. Seismic activity continues at a low rate overall, with a magnitude 3.8 felt earthquake occurring last night on the Kīlauea Volcano south flank,” stated a USGS update issued at 9:18 a.m. HST Saturday.

Last week, the average daily sulfur dioxide emission rate at the summit was approximately 5,000 metric tons/day, but has not been measurable over the past week. Summit seismic activity remains low overall. The summit continued to inflate over the past day.

There were no obvious changes at Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Webcam views show persistent glow from sources within the crater and from a vent high on the northeast flank of the cone. The tiltmeter on the northwest flank of the cone showed a slight increase in tilt over the past day. The sulfur dioxide emission rate from all East Rift Zone vents was about 340 metric tons/day when last measured on November 30. Seismicity in the Puʻu ʻŌʻō area continues at low levels.

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