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USGS: Threat of Even Larger Steam-Driven Violent Explosion

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announces that with ash eruptions occurring from Kīlauea’s summit this week, there is a threat of an even larger steam-driven violent explosion. Such an eruption could happen suddenly and send volcanic ash 20,000 feet into the air, threatening communities for miles. USGS and NOAA’s National Weather Service are working together to observe, model and warn the public of hazardous conditions. Here is where you can find the information you need to stay safe.

This photo was taken on Wednesday, May 15, 2018, At 11:05 a.m. Photograph from the Jaggar Museum, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, captures an ash plume rising from the Overlook crater. Ash falling from the plume can be seen just to the right side (and below) the plume. (USGS Photo)

Observations and Status of Kīlauea

While the ​USGS Hawai‘i Volcanoes Observatory​ is positioning staff to observe the volcano and best communicate its status and evolution, they rely heavily on the weather forecasts from NOAA. Wind forecasts, ​along with dispersion models such as HYSPLIT,​ are critical in understanding where sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) will disperse from fissures and vents to ensure safety of USGS observers, emergency managers and the public.

Ashfall Advisories, Warnings and Current Weather Forecast from Honolulu

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018 the National Weather Service issued the first ever ashfall advisory for Hawai‘i. Forecasters will issue ashfall advisories and warnings when ashfall is a hazard. NOAA predicts where an ash plume will go and how much ash will accumulate using USGS’s ​Ash3d Volcanic Ash Dispersion Model​.

Volcanic Ash Advisories​ and ​Aviation Warnings

Volcanic ash clouds can threaten air traffic by sandblasting windscreens, clogging pitot tubes, and in severe cases, causing jet engines to shut down. NOAA issues volcanic ash warnings to alert pilots to potential ash in the atmosphere and will include volcanic ash in forecasts for airports.

Tips to Stay Safe

During explosive eruptions, volcanic ash can disrupt downwind populations by causing breathing problems, impacting water quality, clogging air filters, shorting out power systems and making transportation difficult.​ If your community is threatened by ash, you are advised to do the following:

  • Seal windows and doors.
  • Protect electronics and cover air intakes and open water sources.
  • Avoid driving as visibility will be reduced and roads may become slippery.
  • Remain indoors to avoid inhaling ash particles unless it’s absolutely necessary to go outside. If you have a respiratory illness, do not go outside.
  • If you must go outside, cover your mouth and nose with a mask or cloth.

Summit Deflation Leads to Slight Drop in Lava Lake Level

The U.S. Geological Survey reports summit deflation began the morning of Wednesday, April 18, 2018, and the lake level has dropped slightly.

In this photo, an HVO geologist checks on a time-lapse camera on the rim of Halema‘uma‘u Crater. A large spatter site is active along the east margin of the lake. Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

On Wednesday morning, April 18, the lake was about 14 meters (46 feet) below the overlook of the crater rim, having dropped roughly 4 meters (13 feet) since yesterday morning.

Aerial Video of Kīlauea Volcano’s Summit Lava Lake

This aerial video footage, filmed by USGS in late July 2016, features Kīlauea Volcano’s summit vent within Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.

lava lake 817

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park’s Jaggar Museum, and the adjacent USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, are perched on the rim of Kīlauea’s summit caldera (foreground of opening footage) just over a mile from the crater, offering spectacular viewing opportunities for Park visitors. Closer to Halemaʻumaʻu, black lava flows on both sides of the summit vent are clearly visible; these flows spilled onto the crater floor when the lava lake overflowed the vent rim in April–May 2015.

At the time this footage was captured, the lava lake level was 22–26 m (72–85 ft) below the vent rim; this morning, it was about 32 m (105 ft) below the vent rim. The summit vent, initially 35 m (115 ft) wide when it first opened in March 2008, has since been enlarged by numerous vent rim collapses and is now about 180 by 250 meters (590 by 820 feet) across.

USGS Releases New Photos of Active Lava Flow

Scattered breakouts remain active northeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, with the farthest activity about 6 km (3.7 miles) from the vent on Puʻu ʻŌʻō.

Some of these breakouts are active along the northern boundary of the flow field, and are burning several small patches of forest - creating the smoke plumes visible near the center of the photograph.  (Click to enlarge)

Some of these breakouts are active along the northern boundary of the flow field, and are burning several small patches of forest – creating the smoke plumes visible near the center of the photograph. (Click to enlarge)

The breakout that began in late November continues to feed lava to the northern boundary of the flow field via a new lava tube. The trace of this new tube is easily visible in the thermal images.

This view looks northeast, and the breakouts along the forest boundary are visible near the top edge of the photograph.

This view looks northeast, and the breakouts along the forest boundary are visible near the top edge of the photograph.

An HVO geologist collects a molten lava sample for chemical analysis, scooping up a bit with the rock hammer to then drop in the water bucket to quench it. Puʻu ʻŌʻō is visible in the distance.

 

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This view shows the north rim of Kīlauea Caldera, with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park’s Jaggar Museum perched at the rim for ideal views of summit activity.

A clear day at Kīlauea's summit. (Click to enlarge)

A clear day at Kīlauea’s summit. (Click to enlarge)

Mauna Kea is in the distance, partially obscured by clouds, and Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone extends off the left edge of the photo.

The sun angle was ideal yesterday to show the complex texture on the surface of the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater at Kīlauea’s summit.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Spattering was active in the southeast portion of the lake. For scale, the lake is about 230 meters or 755 feet across.

Pu’u O’o Experiencing Slow Slip Event

The latest USGS Kilauea update mentioned in it’s Puʻu ʻŌʻō Observations: that “a swarm of small earthquakes continues on Kīlauea’s south flank… These south flank earthquakes are associated with a “slow slip event”

Webcams show no significant change in eruptive activity at Puʻu ʻŌʻō.

Aerial view of Puʻu ʻŌʻō taken on 8-30-1990. USGS Photo by J.D. Griggs

Aerial view of Puʻu ʻŌʻō taken on 8-30-1990. USGS Photo by J.D. Griggs

Tilt over the past day was affected by heavy rain. The sulfur dioxide emission rate from all East Rift Zone vents was about 300 metric tons per day when measurements were last possible on October 2, 2015. A swarm of small earthquakes continues on Kīlauea’s south flank, west of Kaʻena Point, near Apua Point.

These south flank earthquakes are associated with a “slow slip event” – more information on slow slip events can be found in this Volcano Watch article from 2012: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/view.php?id=119

“A slow slip event (SSE). SSEs are episodes of fault slip occurring over the course of 1–2 days beneath Kīlauea’s south flank. If all that slip took place abruptly, it would generate the equivalent of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake. Because the slip occurs over days, however, the SSE motion is detectable only with sensitive geodetic or deformation monitoring instruments.

Over the past decade, SSEs have been observed here and in a number of other places around the world, including Japan, Mexico, and the United States Pacific Northwest. They occur on the same faults that produce large and occasionally destructive earthquakes.

In Washington State and Oregon, SSEs occur so regularly that they can be predicted. It is also thought that SSEs can possibly trigger large, destructive earthquakes; thus, they are well worth studying.”

January is “Volcano Awareness Month” in Hawaii

January 2015 is Hawaiʻi Island’s 6th annual “Volcano Awareness Month.”

A clear view today of Puʻu ʻŌʻō’s summit revealed no significant change during the past week. The cross-sectional area of the active lava stream in the tube on the flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō was the same as measured on December 22, suggesting no change in lava discharge from the vent. The central crater at Puʻu ʻŌʻō formed over several days following the opening of eruptive fissures on June 27; the view is looking toward the west. The distance from the high point on the northwest rim to the south rim (cliff in top middle to lower left in this photo) is about 300 m (~980 ft). (Click to Enlarge)

A clear view today of Puʻu ʻŌʻō’s summit revealed no significant change during the past week. The cross-sectional area of the active lava stream in the tube on the flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō was the same as measured on December 22, suggesting no change in lava discharge from the vent. The central crater at Puʻu ʻŌʻō formed over several days following the opening of eruptive fissures on June 27; the view is looking toward the west. The distance from the high point on the northwest rim to the south rim (cliff in top middle to lower left in this photo) is about 300 m (~980 ft). (Click to Enlarge)

With Kīlauea’s current lava flow impacting Puna residents, awareness is more essential than ever for us to live in harmony with the active volcanoes that are our island home.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, in cooperation with Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense, will provide a month-long series of programs about the volcanoes on which we live:

“At-a-Glance” Program Schedule

Program descriptions:

January 3, 2015, also marks the anniversary of Kīlauea’s ongoing East Rift Zone eruption, which began in 1983. During the past 32 years, lava flows have buried over 127 km2 (49 mi2) of public and private land, destroying 215 structures, 14 km (9 mi) of highway, and vast tracts of native forest. The ongoing destruction is a reminder of why it’s important to be aware of and understand how Hawaiian volcanoes work.

Lava Flow Continues to Advance Towards Pahoa Market Place and Highway 130

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists conducted a helicopter overflight of the June 27th lava flow yesterday afternoon and mapped its perimeter.

1230map

At the time of the flight, the leading tip of the flow was stalled 530 m (580 yd) from the Pahoa Marketplace, but several small breakouts were active immediately upslope from the front. The flow had advanced about 150 m (~165 yd) since December 27.

The leading part of the flow consisted of several small, active lobes this afternoon. The front of the lobe that crossed the firebreak was stalled, though breakouts were active about 50 m (55 yd) upslope. Another lobe (area of most visible smoke in center) was about 300 m (330 yd) upslope of the tip and 150 m (165 yd) upslope of the firebreak. A third lobe was 350 m (385 yd) upslope of the firebreak. The view is to the northeast.

The leading part of the flow consisted of several small, active lobes this afternoon. The front of the lobe that crossed the firebreak was stalled, though breakouts were active about 50 m (55 yd) upslope. Another lobe (area of most visible smoke in center) was about 300 m (330 yd) upslope of the tip and 150 m (165 yd) upslope of the firebreak. A third lobe was 350 m (385 yd) upslope of the firebreak. The view is to the northeast.

Many small breakouts were also active along the length of the flow up to about 3 km (2 miles) upslope from the front of the flow, as well as within the ground crack area near the True/Mid-Pacific well pad and about 3 km (2 miles) downslope from Puʻu ʻŌʻō.

This compares a normal photograph of the active flow front with a thermal image.

1231thermalThe photograph has been cropped and rotated to approximate the perspective of the thermal image. The thermal image shows that small breakouts were present immediately behind the leading tip of the flow and farther upslope, indicated by the white and yellowish pixels.

Lava Breakouts Remain Active Around Ground Crack System and Well Site

The farthest downslope breakouts today are still situated around the ground crack system, near the abandoned well site. The front of these breakouts was about 500 m (0.3 miles) northeast of the well site, and about 1.9 km (1.2 miles) west of Kaohe Homesteads.

These breakouts were covering the existing flow and burning forest on its margins.  (Click to enlarge)

These breakouts were covering the existing flow and burning forest on its margins. (Click to enlarge)

Much of the active lava was covering the existing flow around the ground crack system, with small portions entering the forest at the flow margins.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The activity in the forest triggered brush fires and frequent methane explosions.

An HVO geologist examines a ground crack into which lava was pouring near the flow margin, producing large amounts of steam.  Click to enlarge

An HVO geologist examines a ground crack into which lava was pouring near the flow margin, producing large amounts of steam. Click to enlarge

Lava Flow Enters Kaohe Homesteads

June 27th flow enters northwest portion of Kaohe Homesteads

The June 27th lava flow remains active and continues advancing towards the northeast. Recently, the flow front entered the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision, and is currently within the vacant, forested northwest portion of the subdivision. The flow front was 3.3 km (2.1 miles) upslope from Apaʻa Road and 4.3 km (2.7 miles) from Pāhoa Village Road.

Another view of the flow front, in the northwest portion of Kaohe Homesteads subdivision.
A closer view of surface activity on the June 27th lava flow. This pāhoehoe flow consists of many small, scattered, slow-moving lobes burning vegetation.

HVO geologists conduct a VLF (very-low frequency) survey to measure the rate of lava flowing through the lava tube on the June 27th lava flow.
An HVO geologist conducts a very-low frequency (VLF) survey of the lava tube to measure the rate of lava flowing through the tube. The measurement consists of two steps. First, a transect of VLF measurements across the roof of the tube is used to measure the cross-sectional area of lava flowing through the tube. Second, a radar gun is used to measure the speed that lava is flowing at that location. An open skylight is required for this speed measurement. By multiplying the cross-sectional area with the velocity, the volume rate of lava flowing through the tube can be estimated. Today’s measurement showed a flow rate of 5.8 cubic meters per second (roughly 1500 gallons per second). Tracking the lava supply rate like this can be helpful for anticipating fluctuations in activity at the flow front.

Click to view movie

This Quicktime movie provides an aerial view of activity near the front of the June 27th flow, where numerous pāhoehoe lobes are slowly burning vegetation.

Click to view movie

This Quicktime movie shows the view through a skylight on the lava tube, which provided a clear view of the flowing lava stream.

Lava Flow Moves Closer to Pahoa and Highway 130

The June 27th lava flow remained active Wednesday afternoon, September 10, 2014, with the most distal flow front 14.5 km (9.0 mi; straight-line distance) from the vent on the northeast flank of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone, which is visible in the far background.

Click to enlarge

Over the past day, the flow front direction shifted from a north trend to a more northeast trend, bringing the flow closer to the Forest Reserve boundary. The flow continued to advance through thick forest, creating smoke plumes as it engulfed trees and other vegetation. The smell of smoke has been detected far downwind of the flow, but fires are not spreading beyond the margin of the flow. Small, sluggish breakouts of lava (smoke plumes in far distance) also remain active closer to Puʻu ʻŌʻō, roughly midway along the length of the June 27th flow.

View from above the end of the June 27th lava flow, looking along its northeast trend through the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve.

On the afternoon of September 10, 2014, the flow front was 0.6 km (0.4 mi) from the boundary between the Forest Reserve and Kaohe Homesteads, visible at far right. Click to enlarge

Smoke plumes indicate the location of the June 27th lava flow, which was 0.6 km (0.4 mi) from the edge of Kaohe Homesteads, visible in foreground, on September 10. The flow was advancing toward the northeast.

Lava Flow Map Updated – Flow Widens and Advances

Map showing the June 27th flow in Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone as of September 3, 2014.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The area of the flow as mapped on September 1 is shown in pink, while widening and advancement of the flow as of September 3 is shown in red. Last night, lava welled up out of the crack it was filling and spilled out onto the ground to feed new surface flows. As of early afternoon today (September 3), lava on the surface was 13.2 km (8.2 miles) from the vent and 1.3 km (0.8 miles) from the east boundary of the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve. All older lava flows (1983–2014) are shown in gray; the yellow line marks the lava tube.

New Videos Released for Great Alaska Quake 50th Anniversary

The U.S. Geological Survey has released two new videos about the Great Alaska Earthquake of March 27, 1964 to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the largest earthquake ever recorded in the United States.

The videos include rare vintage film footage and photos of the earthquake damage, combined with modern interviews with some of the same scientists who first investigated the magnitude 9.2 quake. They tell the story about the scientific discovery that was a significant early contribution to the now widely-accepted theory of plate tectonics.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/lE2j10xyOgI]

The two videos, a four-minute, and an 11-minute version of the same story, feature USGS Geologist Emeritus George Plafker who was one of the first geologists on the scene 50 years ago to assess the damage and help with plans for rebuilding. Today, Plafker is still conducting geologic research to better understand the ground response and what the severity of shaking may be during the next big earthquake in Alaska. While the probability of a repeat earthquake of the same magnitude is very low, even a smaller quake of magnitude 7 or 8 can do a significant amount of damage. Plafker’s and other scientists’ research contributes to the safety and resiliency of Alaska communities to future large quakes.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/jvl-4IWjHXo]

“This is an incredible story. We’ve got great old film footage, revolutionary science and some remarkable geologists who’ve really made a difference,” said USGS video producer Stephen M. Wessells. “It’s been exciting to learn how two generations of scientists have sorted out the details and clarified the threats.”

While examining modern sediment cores drilled in Alaska and brought into the laboratory, Plafker reminisces about his first impressions on the scene immediately after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. His current research is helping scientists understand how frequently earthquakes of that size have occurred in the past. Carbon dating the layers in the core sample, reveals the past 5000 years of prehistory, and gives Plafker a clue about the potential of future activity or occurrences of similar events.

As the anniversary approaches, many educational and historic public events are planned. Check the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami 50th Anniversary website for an up to date schedule and additional resources

3.9 Magnitude Earthquake Registered Off the Big Island Today

A 3.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the Pahala coast of the Big Island this afternoon at 3:51 pm Hawaii time:

3.9 Pahala

Multiple Lava Streams Enter the Ocean Near Base of Kilauea

Here is the latest USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Report:

Multiple lava streams entering the ocean, and breakouts near the base of the pali

Several streams of lava were entering the water near Kupapa`u Point. Here at the eastern end of the ocean entry a narrow stream is battered by the surf.

Breakouts near the shoreline have diminished over the past week, but surface flows remain active closer to the base of the pali on the coastal plain.

 

Current Status of Hawaii Island’s Volcanoes Presented in Kona

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s 1912–2012 Centennial—100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes

The current status of Hawai‘i Island’s active volcanoes and how they are monitored will be the topic of a Volcano Awareness Month program in Kailua-Kona on Wednesday, January 11.

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory uses a variety of ground- and satellite-based techniques to monitor Hawai‘i’s active volcanoes. Here, an HVO scientist sets up a portable GPS receiver to track surface changes during an island-wide survey of Hawai‘i’s volcanoes.

Mike Poland, a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, will talk about Kīlauea, Mauna Loa, Hualālai, and Mauna Kea in an informative and engaging presentation in the Kealakehe High School Cafeteria, 74-5000 Puuhulihuli Street, in Kailua.  A campus map is available online.  His talk, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7:00 p.m.

Hawai‘i Island is home to five volcanoes, four of which have erupted within the past 10,000 years.  Poland will provide updates on the status of these “active” volcanoes, with particular focus on recent events on Kīlauea, which has been erupting almost continuously since 1983.  He will also talk about how HVO scientists monitor Hawai‘i’s active volcanoes.

According to Poland, Hawaiian volcanoes are among the best-monitored volcanoes in the world.  “Since its founding in 1912, HVO has been at the forefront of developing, testing, and implementing cutting-edge monitoring tools and techniques,” he said.  Poland’s presentation will include an overview of the state-of-the-art techniques now used by HVO to track magma movement within the currently erupting Kīlauea and to watch for changes within the presently-quiet Mauna Loa, Hualālai, and Mauna Kea.

This presentation is one of many programs offered by HVO during Hawai‘i Island’s third annual Volcano Awareness Month (January 2012), and in celebration of HVO’s 100th anniversary. For more information about Poland’s talk, and other HVO Centennial and Volcano Awareness Month events, please visit the HVO website or call (808) 967-8844.

Volcano Scientist Presents Two Talks About Kilauea’s Ongoing Eruptions

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s 1912–2012 Centennial—100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes

Matt Patrick, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory will present two talks about Kīlauea Volcano in East Hawai‘i in the coming week.   The presentations are part of a series of HVO talks being held during Hawai`i Island’s 3rd annual Volcano Awareness Month in January 2012, and in celebration of HVO’s 100th anniversary.

An update on the active volcanic vent within Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kīlauea will be the topic of Patrick’s talk on Tuesday, January 10.  This “After Dark in the Park” presentation will be held in the Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park at 7:00 p.m.  The talk is free, but Park entrance fees apply.

The vent in Halema‘uma‘u Crater opened in March 2008.  Since then, the eruption has consisted of constant degassing, occasional explosive events, continuing ash emissions, and fluctuating lava lake activity within an open vent that has now grown to more than 430 feet wide.  Patrick will present an overview of this ongoing summit eruption and its current status.

Tracking Kīlauea’s ongoing eruptions will be the topic of Patrick’s second presentation, which will be at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Thursday, January 12, at 7:00 p.m.  This talk is free and open to the public.  It will be held in the University Classroom Building, Room 100, on the UH–Hilo main campus, 200 W. Kawili Street, in Hilo. A map of the campus is available online.

In addition to the summit eruption that began in March 2008, Kīlauea has been erupting essentially nonstop for the past 29 years at vents along the volcano’s east rift zone.  During those years, the volcanic activity has included erupting fissures, spectacular lava fountains, and numerous flows of ‘a‘ā and pāhoehoe lava.  Patrick will review these significant events and will describe how USGS scientists track Hawai‘i’s volcanic activity.

For more information about Patrick’s presentations, other Volcano Awareness Month programs, and HVO Centennial events, please visit the HVO website or call (808) 967-8844.