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Breakouts Remain Active on Lava Flow Field, Changes to Ocean Entry Lava Delta

Surface breakouts (light in color) remain active on the upper coastal plain. These breakouts are fed by both the main eastern tube—left of the kipuka and below the tube’s fume trace on the pali—and from the eastern June 26 breakout branch, visible to the right of the kipuka.

The misty day obscured a view of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō, which, on a clear day, would be visible on the skyline in the center of the photo. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

The leading edge of the coastal plain breakouts is on the western (left) flow margin and is approximately 1.3 km (0.8 mi) from the closest section of the emergency road. At the Kamokuna ocean entry, recent breakouts near the edge of the cliff (lighter in color) have been spilling onto the lava delta (foreground) for the past few weeks, resurfacing almost the entire area of the delta.

Firehose Activity Briefly Returns at the Kamokuna Ocean Entry

On Sunday, June 25 between 11:39 and 11:44 HST, firehose activity started at the ocean entry and continued for less than 10 minutes. A USGS time-lapse camera, which takes a photo every 5 minutes, captured this image at 11:44 and by 11:49 the firehose was replaced by a lava channel on the delta.

The cause of the short-lived firehose activity was not visible from the time-lapse camera, but was likely the result of a failure of the 61g tube casing where it exits the old sea cliff.

This photo from June 25 shows the established lava channel at 6:49 pm HST, hours after the firehose activity.

On June 26 HVO observers did not see any active surface breakouts on the delta and the channel has tubed over, but some narrow streams of lava were spilling into the ocean. The delta had lost some small chunks, but there was no evidence seen of a large-scale delta collapse.

Kamokuna Ocean Entry Slowly Building New Lava Delta

The episode 61g Kamokuna ocean entry has been slowly building a new lava delta for a little over a month now.

Click to enlarge

Two large cracks parallel to the coast are visible on the delta (center), with the distal portion slumping slightly seaward—suggesting further instability. Thursday, the ocean entry activity, most of which was located along the western side of the delta and obscured by the thick plume, was producing occasional weak littoral explosions.

New Year’s Eve Delta Collapse Causes Temporary Closure at Kamokuna Ocean Entry

A large section of the 26-acre lava delta formed by the 61g lava flow collapsed into the ocean around 2:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, launching showers of volcanic rock into the air, and creating a flurry of large waves that eroded away a portion of the older sea cliff and viewing area.

As a result, the Kamokuna ocean entry within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park will remain closed today as park rangers and USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists survey the area. Rangers on duty New Year’s Day reported that the former viewing area is gone, and that loud cracks continue to be heard throughout the unstable area.

Although park rangers temporarily closed the Kamokuna lava viewing area last night, five visitors ducked beneath the white rope closure line and made a beeline for the coastal cliffs around 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Eruption Crew Ranger Travis Delimont and a co-worker had to chase after them before they turned around.  Within 15 minutes, the section of cliff where the visitors were standing crashed into the ocean.

“It was a really close brush with death for them,” Ranger Delimont said. “Luckily, they finally listened to us and turned around in time,” he said.

The lava viewing area will remain closed until it is determined safe to reopen. The County of Hawai‘i also closed the Kalapana access to the park.

“Fortunately, there were no aircraft or boats reported in the area at the time of the collapse, nor were any visitors on the delta itself, which is closed for public safety,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “Had anyone been close by on land, water or air, lives would have surely been lost,” she said.

There is a temporary flight restriction of 1,000 feet above ground level at the Kamokuna ocean entry.

Lava deltas are extremely hazardous volcanic features and are formed when lava enters the ocean and builds new land on loose and unstable substrate. In addition to the threat of collapse, lava entering the ocean produces a highly a corrosive plume of hydrochloric acid and volcanic particles that irritate the lungs, skin and eyes. Visitors are strongly urged to stay out of closed areas and heed all posted warning signs.