Maui News

Kīlauea Volcano Update: Seven Acre Island of Solidified Lava Continues to Settle

January 5, 2021, 10:37 AM HST
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Over the past week, the lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u has developed a subtle levee around its perimeter that allows the lake to be slightly perched above its base, like a mesa. The levees grow from repeated small overflows, and the rafting and piling of pieces of surface crust that fuse together into a barrier that impounds the fluid lake. This is called a “perched” lava lake, and this geometry has been common for lava lakes at Kīlauea’s summit and rift zones. For example, see this photo of a perched lava pond within Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater in 2011. USGS photo by M. Patrick on Jan. 1, 2021. 

A seven acre island of solidified lava is floating in the lava lake at Halemaʻumaʻu crater on Hawaiʻi Island. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that the land mass continued to settle, mostly rotating counter-clockwise, in front of the west lava source that is filling the lake.

There are also 11 smaller islands that have been moving, but remained in the east end of the lake.

Yesterday afternoon, Jan. 4, the island was measured at 1-2 yards higher above the lake surface, according to an update provided by the HVO.

Lava activity at the Kīlauea Volcano on Hawaiʻi Island remains confined to Halemaʻumaʻu with lava erupting from vents on the northwest side of the crater. Monday afternoon, Jan. 4, the lava lake was 627 feet deep and spanned 82 acres.

“Summit tiltmeters recorded weak deflationary tilt since Jan. 1. Seismicity remained elevated but stable, with steady elevated tremor and a few minor earthquakes,” according to the HVO.

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Geodetic monitors indicate that the upper portion of the East Rift Zone (between the summit and Puʻu ʻŌʻō) contracted while the summit deflated at the onset of this eruption. There is no seismic or deformation data to indicate that additional magma is currently moving into either of Kīlauea’s rift zones,” according to the HVO report.

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The HVO reports that the lake is now “perched” about a meter above its narrow edges. “Overflows onto the narrow edge slowly elevated a low wall around the lake similar to the wall around an above-ground swimming pool,” according to the HVO report.

Near-real time webcam views of the lava lake can be found here: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/multimedia_webcams.html

  • The western portion of the lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u, Kīlauea Volcano summit. The island has migrated closer to the west vent area, which remains active. USGS photo by M. Patrick. PC: Jan. 1, 2021
  • View of the west vent area and lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u, at Kīlauea Volcano’s summit. USGS photo by K. Lynn. PC: Jan. 2, 2021.
  • At Halema‘uma‘u, the west vents (visible in the foreground of this photo as two glowing holes on a cone-shaped feature) erupt occaisional spatter. Lava is also emerging in a small dome fountain above the lake crust in front of the west vents, probably from a submerged portion of the vent (visible in the background of this photo as a bright spot with lava crust boundaries emanating from it like a spider web). These processes can be observed in Kīlauea Volcano’s summit F1 thermal webcam view of the lava lake. USGS photo by H. Dietterich. PC: Jan. 3, 2021
  • Early this morning, the west vents in Halema‘uma‘u spattered from two places at the top of a small cone plastered on the northwest wall. This process can be seen in Kīlauea Volcano’s summit F1 thermal webcam view of the lava lake. USGS photo by H. Dietterich. PC: Jan. 3, 2021.
  • The west vent in Halema‘uma‘u crater continues to erupt at Kīlauea’s summit. These telephoto images from December 29 (left) and December 30 (right) compare the lava lake surface below the west vent. The west vent is supplying lava to the lake through a crusted over channel, which was starting to form by December 30. USGS photos by H. Dietterich.
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