Maui News

“Pattern” of Summit Activity Resulting in Near Daily Explosions

June 7, 2018, 12:37 PM HST
* Updated June 7, 12:51 PM
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The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is reporting a “pattern” of activity at the summit of the Kīlauea Volcano that is resulting in explosion events that are occurring about once a day.

Janet Babb, an HVO geologist tells Maui Now that yesterday’s explosion (which occurred at around 4:10 p.m.) sent a plume of ash about 10,000 feet into the air and released energy “equivalent” to a 5.6 earthquake.

She said that was followed by a relatively quiet period overnight, “However in keeping with the pattern, the HVO expects to see seismicity increase throughout today, and most likely lead up to another explosion.”

HVO officials also provided clarity on the type of seismic activity occurring.  “It’s not a standard earthquake like one that happens along a fault,” said Babb.  “What’s happening is there is a collapse within Halemaʻumaʻu…  there’s a lot of rubble that has filled in within the crater.”  As pressure builds within that conduit, officials say the pressure cannot push all the material into the air, so the energy goes out into the summit area.

“It really is not felt beyond the summit area,” said Babb.  “That alone tells us it’s different.  After one of these releases, it takes some time for pressure to build again, and that culminates in one of these explosions.  It’s been about once a day, sometimes a little longer.”


The seismic events are described as “fairly shallow.” USGS officials have also noted that, “These are not tsunami events.”


During a morning media briefing, Babb described other volcano activity surrounding the ongoing eruption.  Fissure 8, located on Kīlauea’s Lower East Rift Zone, remains active and was producing fluctuating fountain heights as high as 230 feet at times.

The fissure continues to feed lava into a channel that is headed East toward the former Kapoho Bay area.  A north flow at Fissure 8 was not producing a lot of lava activity, and a lobe on the west side of the fissure is currently “inactive,” according to HVO officials.


Along the Fissure 8 channel, overflows were described by the HVO as only “minor,” at last report. Lava continues to enter the ocean in Vacationland, and continues to creep north of the Kapoho Beach Lots.

Hazards associated with the ongoing eruption include Pele’s Hair, which is occurring as fallout from high lava fountains; and Laze, which contains tiny particles of volcanic glass at the ocean entry point.  Sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas emissions also remain high on the Lower East Rift Zone.

Unstable Weather into Friday, Shift in Winds

John Bravender, a meteorologist with NOAA’s National Weather Service says an upper level low is situated southeast of the Big Island that will be bringing destabilization to the area.  According to Bravender, winds will turn ESE tomorrow, and may result in a change to areas affected by vog.  An unstable air mass is forecast to bring unstable weather and brief heavier downpours into Friday.  NWS officials say stronger tradewinds are expected to build back in on Saturday into Sunday.

28th Day of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Closure, Evacuation Route Complete

Jessica Ferracane, the public information officer for the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park reports that today marks the 28th day of the park closure.

Park officials report no additional damage from yesterday’s tremor near the summit, however crews have been unable to assess damage within buildings at the park.

Ferracane reports that the Chain of Craters evacuation route is now complete, and a practice evacuation event will be staged at the location tomorrow.

VIDEO above: Courtesy USGS.  “HVO’s mid-day overflight on June 5 shows ongoing partial collapse of Halema‘uma‘u at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. To the north of the former visitor Overlook parking area (closed in 2008) is the site of the former lava lake—now a deep hole piled with wall-rock rubble. The western portion of Halema‘uma‘u has moved down and toward the center of the crater as new cracks form on the caldera floor to the west. Kīlauea’s summit continues to subside due to withdrawal of magma towards the volcano’s East Rift Zone.”

This view, looking south at Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone, was captured during HVO’s 6 a.m. HST helicopter overflight on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. It shows continued fountaining of fissure 8 and the lava flow channel fed by it. Lava continues to flow quickly in these braided channels; the flow margins are currently stable and have not experienced any breakouts since June 5, 2018. PC: US Geological Survey.

This fish-eye view of the lava delta filling the former Kapoho Bay shows that while the delta margin nearest the ocean has cooled somewhat, the lava flow front is still very hot and producing laze (lava haze). Laze is a local hazard composed of acidic gases and volcanic glass fragments and should be avoided. PC: US Geological Survey

A robust laze (lava haze) plume rises from the northern side of the fissure 8 lava flow margins in the former Kapoho Bay. As of 6 a.m. HST on June 6, this part of the flow front was slowly advancing through the remaining sections of the Kapoho Beach Lots subdivision. PC: US Geological Survey.

The vigorous lava fountain at Fissure 8 reached heights of 45 m (150 ft) as shown in this image taken around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. PC: US Geological Survey

Views from HVO’s helicopter overflight at 1 p.m. HST on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, show the remains of the Kapoho Beach Lots subdivision and the fissure 8 flow front. The northern flow margin in this area was unchanged from HVO’s morning flight and appeared to have stopped advancing at the time of the flight. PC: US Geological Survey

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