Lava Flow Continues to Advance – Could Become Threat to Residential Areas in Weeks to Months

The June 27th lava flow, named for the date it began erupting, continues to advance to the northeast of its vent on the flank of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō on Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone.  As of Friday, August 22, the front of the flow was 10.7 km (6.6 mi) northeast of the vent.


According to the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Scientist-in-Charge Jim Kauahikaua, the lava flow is not an immediate threat to residential areas or infrastructure downhill of the flow, but could become one in weeks to months if lava continues to advance.

This view is to the east, with the forested cone of Heiheiahulu partly obscured by the smoke plume from this angle. (Click to Enlarge)

This view is to the east, with the forested cone of Heiheiahulu partly obscured by the smoke plume from this angle. (Click to Enlarge)

HVO scientists, who mapped the flow during an overflight Friday morning, report that the flow was active along two fronts. The northern branch was advancing northeastward across fairly flat land, while the southern branch had flowed into a ground crack within the rift zone. By tracing the steam issuing from the crack, lava is inferred to have advanced 1.4 km (0.9 mi) over the past 4 days, putting it 3.8 km (2.4 mi) from the eastern boundary of the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve.


The difficulty in forecasting the flow’s exact path is that “downhill of the flow” can be affected by subtle variations in topography (shape and features of the ground surface), changes in lava supply (volume increases or decreases), and where and how lava enters or exits ground cracks along the rift zone.

Kilauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone eruption began in January 1983.  Since then, most lava flows have advanced to the south, reaching the ocean about 75 precent of the time.  But the northeastward movement of the June 27th lava flow is not unprecedented.  Lava flows also traveled northeast of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō episodically in 1983-1986 and for four months in 2007, as well as during the past 19 months.  The most distal point reached by the Kahauale‘a and Kahauale‘a 2 lava flows, which were active from early 2013 until June 2014, was 8.8 km (5.5 mi) northeast of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō.


The June 27th lava flow is advancing through a heavily forested area on Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone. This area of the rift zone is exceedingly hazardous to hikers as it is highly fractured, with numerous, deep ground cracks that are difficult to see because of the heavy vegetation. Another hazard in the area includes methane explosions that occur when lava flows over vegetated land.

The June 27th lava flow is currently within the Kahauale‘a Natural Area Reserve, which has been closed by the Hawaii State Department of Natural Land and Resources (DLNR) due to the ongoing volcanic hazards, and the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve, also closed by DLNR and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.


HVO continues to closely monitor the June 27th lava flow through increased overflights, satellite imagery, and webcam images, and is keeping Hawai‘i County Civil Defense fully informed about the flow’s location. The public can track the lava flow activity through maps, photos, and daily eruption updates posted on the HVO website at Should the lava flow become an immediate threat to residential areas or infrastructure, HVO will begin posting more frequent updates.

The History of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Explained – Volcano Awareness Month

The story of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, is the topic of an “After Dark in the Park” program in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Tues., Jan. 17 at 7 p.m.

U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Jim Kauahikaua will talk about the founding of the observatory in 1912, as well as HVO’s achievements monitoring Hawaiian volcanoes and earthquakes during the past century.  His presentation will be held at the park’s Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium. Park entrance fees apply.

Thomas A. Jaggar founded the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in 1912 and served as its Director until 1940. Shown here in 1925, Jaggar is at work in HVO’s first building, which, at the time, was located on the northeast rim of Kīlauea Volcano’s summit caldera, near the present-day Volcano House hotel. Today’s HVO Scientist-in-Charge presents the story of America’s first volcano observatory in a talk at the Kīlauea Visitor Center at 7 p.m. on Jan. 17.

The founding of HVO, America’s first volcano observatory, is attributed to Thomas A. Jaggar in the year 1912. But the study and monitoring of Kīlauea actually began in 1911 with Frank Perret, who came to Hawai‘i at the request of Jaggar.

Jaggar arrived at Kīlauea on Jan. 17, 1912, and immediately set forth monitoring earthquakes and changes in the shape of Kīlauea with the best tools available to him at the time: a few seismometers, some meteorological equipment, and a surveyor’s transit.

One hundred years later, HVO scientists in 2012 analyze data collected from more than 100 field stations, each of which consists of one to five instruments, including seismic, deformation, volcanic-gas, geologic, and other monitoring tools.  These stations transmit data to HVO around the clock, with a single instrument sending as much as 60 terabytes of data each year—more information than Jaggar could have imagined possible.

Kauahikaua will tell the story of HVO’s first 100 years, the various buildings and locations HVO has occupied, the legacy of HVO’s leaders, the evolution of volcano monitoring tools and techniques, and significant discoveries along the way.

HVO’s entire history is a lot of information to compress into a 45-minute presentation, but Kauahikaua says not to worry.  He is coauthor of a new USGS General Interest Product, “The Story of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory—A Remarkable First 100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes.”  One hundred paper copies of the publication will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to attendees at his talk.

The public is also invited to attend an Open House of the observatory in celebration of HVO’s centennial milestone.

“HVO is not ordinarily open to the public, so our Open House on Jan. 21 is a special opportunity for island residents and visitors to see how we monitor Hawaiian volcanoes and to interact with HVO scientists,” said Kauahikaua.

Kauahikaua’s presentation is one of many programs offered by HVO during Volcano Awareness Month and in celebration of HVO’s 100th anniversary in January 2012.  For details about this After Dark in the Park program, please call 808-985-6011.  More information about Volcano Awareness Month is posted on the HVO website at

Meet the Experts at Natural Hazards in Hawaii


The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV) invites the public to its four public seminars on natural hazards in Hawaiʻi. Special additional workshops will be available for Big Island teachers. There is no admission charge.

The seminars will cover the science behind each natural hazard, the impacts of those hazards on the community, and ways residents can mitigate effects of these natural hazards. Each seminar is scheduled on a Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon in UH Hilo’s UCB 100.

The first presentation is on Volcanoes on January 16 with the following presenters and their topics:

  • Don Thomas: Introduction to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes
  • Jim Kauahikaua: Volcanic Hazards on the Island of Hawaiʻi and Overview of Volcano Monitoring at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
  • Don Swanson: Explosive Volcanism at Hawaiʻi’s Volcanoes
  • Frank Trusdell: Mapping of Mauna Loa’s Eruptive History and Critical Infrastructure
  • Quince Mento: Civil Defense and Their Role in the Response to Volcanic Hazards
  • Andrea Ka’awaloa: First person Account of the Kalapana Lava Inundation
Other presentations are Earthquakes on February 20, Tsunamis on April 17, and Hurricanes on May 15.

For changes and updates to the seminar schedule, go to: For information on the teacher training workshops, go to: or call CSAV at (808) 974-7631.