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Kamokuna Lava Delta Collapses Into Ocean

On May 3, Kīlauea Volcano’s Kamokuna lava delta, which had been growing since late March, collapsed.

This image shows the lava delta at 7:50 a.m. HST, a couple of hours before the collapse.

An HVO time-lapse camera captured the sequence of events in five-minute intervals.

Between 9:35 and 9:40 a.m., a large steam plume appeared in the middle of Kamokuna lava delta in the area of large cracks noted in our April 27 image.

Weak fountaining or spattering likely occurred initially, because new tephra is visible in the steaming area, but that activity ended by 9:40 a.m.

Images captured over the next 25 minutes show that the steam plume in the middle of the delta weakened, and the delta surface surrounding the steaming area subsided.

Within five minutes, between 9:55 and 10:00 a.m. HST, nearly the entire delta disappeared, collapsing into the sea.

In this image, captured at 10:05 a.m., the seawater is brown and turbulent. Large blocks of steaming rocks are visible on top of a narrow slice of the remaining delta (center). These rocks were likely washed ashore by a small, localized tsunami generated by the collapse. During the next few hours, small pieces of the remnant delta continued to flake off and disappear into the ocean.

The collapsed area cut back toward the sea cliff, past the largest crack on the delta.

This morning (May 4), the Kamokuna ocean entry was obscured by a thick steam plume at the base of the cliff.

Click images to enlarge

Sparse littoral bursts, occasionally visible through the plume, were the source of the floating, steaming lava fragments that can be seen in the ocean near the entry.

Sea Cliff at Kamokuna Ocean Entry Collapses – “Firehose” Flow Was No Longer Visible

HVO geologists hiked to the Kamokuna ocean entry today to assess the status of the sea cliff. When they arrived, the “firehose” flow was no longer visible. However, spatter (bits of molten lava) and black sand flying through the steam plume indicated that lava was still flowing into the ocean and interacting explosively with seawater.

Just below the left side of the steam cloud, a small shelf of the Kamokuna lava delta that survived the New Year’s Eve collapse can be seen.

Within minutes of HVO geologists reaching the ocean entry site, the sea cliff seaward of the hot crack (see Jan. 30 images) collapsed with no warning; fortunately, they were far enough away to not be in harm’s way.

The top photo was snapped just before the collapse occurred. The bottom image shows the remaining sea cliff after the collapse. Yellow arrows point to the same rocks in both photos for comparison.

The entire section of the sea cliff that was seaward of the hot crack collapsed, except for a small block of rock (left) at the eastern end of the crack; this piece of the sea cliff, estimated to be 30 m long and 5 m wide (98 x 16 ft), remains highly unstable and could collapse with no warning. During the collapse, rocks hitting the ocean generated a wave that propagated outward from the coast.

After the collapse, no lava was visible, but is apparently still flowing into the sea based on the continuing steam plume and explosions of spatter.

Yesterday, grinding noises could be heard coming from the crack, and the block of sea cliff on the makai (ocean) side of the crack could be seen to move slightly.