Saturday, March 26, 2011

Halema’uma’u vent signs of life – Volcano quiet otherwise

Kilauea Volcano continues being very devoid of eruptive activity. This is pronounced considering the level of action this volcano has displayed over the past twenty-eight years.

US Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory updates, monitors and webcams have been keeping a close watch for any and all shifts in magma pressures and the accompanying changes. The changes have been remarkably subdued:

1) Deformation tiltmeters over the past two weeks have twice recorded inflation of magma pressures beneath Kilauea’s crater pit vent.

2) With those increases in magma pressures there has been a corresponding return of lava deep down inside Halema’uma’u’s pit vent. The most resent of these two events being last night on the crater’s overlook webcam, as shown in the top image that I saved at 11:00 PM. On other days we have not been able to visibly see any molten lava in the vent, just the degassing sulfur dioxide fumes.

3) Hawaii Island normally has dozens of small earthquakes each week, many of those from the 1.5 to 2.5-magnitude range and a few in the 3.0 and up size. But since the massive draining of lava March 5th and the spectacular fissure eruptions that followed for a few days, the only significant temblors were those I reported at Kalapana on March 11th. The smattering of tiny quakes on the map from today, posted below, depicts an abnormally quiet volcano.

4) Based on USGS reports, sulfur dioxide emissions are currently around 400-metric tons per day – this is way down when compared with the 1000 to 1700 metric tons per day during the past three years (with a huge spike of up to 10,000 tons during the recent fissure eruption)

Meanwhile a persistent forest fire has been advancing up into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the past few weeks. The fire was originally sparked by the Kamoamoa fissure eruption in the week of March 5th. The fire has now burned over 2000 acres and threatening an ecological reserve of unique plant and bird species. National Parks Service has called in fire fighters from California and Washington State to help stop the fire, which after two weeks of intense and difficult fire management is only 25 percent contained. One of the latest updates on the wildfire can be found here

Everyone here on the Big Island is in a watch-and-wait mode with Kilauea. I believe the last time this volcano became quiet like this was in 2007 when eruptive activity ceased for 10 days and over twice that in a 1997 eruptive pause. This time around the activity has been quiet for about 18 days depending on when you start counting. The most likely thing we might see occur now is earthquake swarms within some portion of the Kilauea rift zone, which would likely indicate an imminent new eruption there.

I will only post updates when significant new changes occur to the volcano. Have some fun and cruise back through the blog posts for previous months and years… It is really amazing how much lava and action has taken place with Kilauea just in the past three years! …. And in the past few decades!

You can follow the Hawaii Volcano Observatory updates here.


  1. It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I'm not even visiting this time! (I went in 86 specifically to volcano-watch, and of course it was the one long inactive period in the current eruption :-( )

  2. Thank you for the updates! Your blog is one of my favorites!