Monday, October 26, 2009

Spectacularly Explosive Fireworks Display -- Pele Style

The top two photos, taken at the Civil Defense coastal viewing area last night, do not fully convey the amazing explosions of raw lava sheets and tephra ejected dramatically high into the air from the entry point at Waikupanaha last night. The sky was alight with this show and reportedly also seen from many miles down the coast at Seaview.

This coastal eruption was likely set into motion by a series of lava bench/delta collapses. The bench has been forming without any major collapses for over six weeks and was recently reported by geologists as being very thick and wide, which could easily create such fireworks when it cracked under stress, allowing raw molten lava to be squeezed rapidly up these cracks and ejected as wide sheets of yellow-hot lava. Seawater rushing into these fissures would add additional firepower to the situation.

I spoke with two women at 9:30 PM who had been sitting at the coastal viewing area since 5:30 PM who told me they not only witnessed the ongoing sets of huge explosions but also observed that over the course of the night, three distinct locations were the source of explosions. Likely these separate sources were the specific section of the lava bench cracking or even breaking off.

The photo above, also taken last night, is of the broader scene of surface lava breaking out a short distance behind Hawaii County Civil Defense headquarters on site at the end of highway 130, with a moon hovering overhead. In the photo below we have a closer look at one of the small lava rivers. Visitors now have two active lava viewing areas: the ocean entry viewpoint and the surface flows near the trailhead.

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s ‘deformation’ update site is now recording an upswing of inflation after 18-hours of deflation yesterday. This could translate into increased pressure throughout the plumbing system of active lava between The Pu`u O`o eruption site on the mountain all the way to the ocean entry, but not right away. This morning Civil Defense workers reported the ocean entry plume was very small; this could be a delayed result of yesterday’s deflationary period finally affecting this far end of the lava tube system.

Cold blustery wind & rain moved through these east/southeast shores of the Big Island this morning… breaking a spell of warm and sometimes muggy weather.

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