Friday, December 18, 2009

Lava Viewing Area – open then closed ~ Big Deflation Begins

It was a pleasant afternoon and early evening out at the parking and trailhead area at the end of highway 130 yesterday. There was a moderately strong lava entry plume and the viewing area was open. Open, yet light and variable winds had dominated the skies all morning causing a broad blanket of volcanic haze to cover the entire eastern half of the Big Island. I was surprised to phone the Civil Defense lava viewing hotline and hear they had called it open around 2:00 PM, even though I could look out my windows at home and see in any direction some of the thickest vog ever!

Since the viewing area was open I went down there to set up my lava photography vendors display booth. I drove through vog all the way there. But they were right; the ocean entry plume itself was wafting from the southeast to the northwest, away from the viewing area. Hundreds of lava viewers arrived at 5:00 PM and walked out the Waikupanaha trail, but by 7:30 PM or so the breeze direction shifted slightly bringing the toxic plume overtop the viewers and an emergency evacuation was announced.

Today, though, we have fresh and stronger northeast winds that have cleared the air and should allow for a full nights viewing of lava at Roads End: highway 130.

That said, there is a new deflationary trend happening up under the Kilauea Volcano, as the graph below shows. This may cause the one and only lava entry point to be a little more subdued tonight.

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