Maui News

How Much Longer? Seismic Activity at Kīlauea Volcano “Eerie and Unsettling”

June 13, 2018, 12:27 PM HST
* Updated June 13, 1:16 PM
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The Fissure 8 complex along the East Rift Zone of the Kīlauea Volcano on Hawaiʻi Island remains active with fountaining continuing to reach heights of 130-150 feet, according to authorities with the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Lava from the growing cinder cone at Fissure 8 is feeding a ‘fast-moving channelized flow’ that continues all the way to  the ocean at Kapoho.  At the ocean entry point, an estimated 250 acres of new land has been created, according to new estimates compiled by the HVO.

There’s also an ongoing laze hazard at the ocean entry, with gas emissions remaining very high.  Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air.

Early this morning, there was yet another explosive eruption at the summit of Kīlauea at 3:40 a.m. that resulted in a preliminary 5.4 magnitude seismic reading.  There has been dozens of explosive eruptions at the summit since the recent activity onset six weeks ago, with the latest pattern of activity occurring on a nearly daily basis.

Maui Now meteorologist, Malika Dudley provided us with some on-scene reports, sharing footage inside Leilani Estates and the emotional weight that the ongoing eruption is having on area residents. (Video: Ekahi Media)



Seismic Activity is “Eerie and Unsettling”

During a morning press briefing, Jessica Ferracane, the Public Information Officer for the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park called the seismic activity an “eerie and unsettling” feeling.

“The earthquakes sometimes seem like they are happening nonstop,” said Ferracane. She said the summit area is “completely transformed” from what it was before, with so much fracturing and cracks that “it does not look like the same crater.”


During a recent visit to the Jaggar Museum Overlook, Ferracane said there was a dusting of ash that made the area look like it was “white washed in a coating of flour.” For an area that is used to accommodate some 5,000 viewers a day, Ferracane said it has been transformed into what “feels like a ghost town to some degree.”

With daily seismic activity that continues to damage roads and facilities, Ferracane said there is no time frame yet on how long it would take to complete repairs.  She said funding would likely come from a multitude of federal National Park Service sources.

Meantime, USGS authorities are trying to get a better handle on the activity in the deeper magma chamber at the summit to better understand its connection to activity in the East Rift Zone.  HVO scientists say the assessment of that deeper camber has been difficult though because monitoring stations at the summit have been swamped by signals from the slumping activity at Halemaʻumaʻu.

How much longer?

HVO officials pointed toward historical analogs and data when asked how long this particular eruption might last.  The 1955 eruption along the lower east rift zone lasted three months; while the 1960 eruption at Kapoho lasted five weeks.

USGS officials said it would still be some time before they could say if the recent six weeks of activity is tied to, or if it is its own separate event from the 1983 eruption at Puʻu ʻŌʻō.  The USGS’ Volcano Hazards Program lists the 1983 event “the longest and most voluminous known outpouring of lava from Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone in more than 500 years.”

Authorities say they need “a little more hindsight” in order to determine if the eruption is is the same or different, but confirm that the 1983 activity “did lead to what is going on now.”

USGS officials say the assessment of how long the current eruptive activity will last, “really depends on how much stock you put into the historic figures.”  The same officials noted that there are not many historical examples to say how long the current activity will last.

Below: Overflight: Blue Hawaiian Helicopters / Video: Ekahi Media / Edit: Malika Dudley

Fissure 8 lava fountains continue to reach heights of 40-45 m (130-150 ft) from within the growing cone of cinder and spatter, which is now about 40 m (130 ft) at its highest point. Fountaining at fissure 8 continues to feed the fast-moving channelized flow that is entering the ocean at Kapoho. PC: US Geological Survey, June 13, 2018.

View of the ocean entry and the resulting laze plume where lava is entering the sea. As of June 12, lava entering the ocean had added about 100 ha (250 acres) of new land to the Island of Hawai‘i. PC: June 13, 2018 US Geological Survey.

Closer view of new land in the Kapoho area. The new coastline, following the ragged lava-ocean interface, is approximately 2.1 km (1.3 mi) in length. The white steam/laze plume marks the location of the most active lava entry site during the morning overflight. PC: US Geological Survey, June 13, 2018.

Fissure 8 fountains reached heights up to 160 feet overnight. Lava fragments falling from the fountains are building a cinder-and-spatter cone around the vent, with the highest part of the cone (about 125 feet high) on the downwind side. USGS image taken June 12, 2018 around 6:10 a.m. HST.

Fissure 8 (fountain visible in distance) feeds lava into an active braided channel that flows about 8 miles (north, then east) to the ocean entry in Kapoho Bay. USGS image taken June 12, 2018, around 6:50 a.m. HST.

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