Friday, January 8, 2010

Halema’uma’u Crater vent puts on a glow ~ Magma inflates rapidly under Kilauea Volcano ~ High surf still pounding north & northwest shores

This photo I took of the Halema`uma`u crater last year, but it was a very similar strong and glowing display last night.

Park field ranger Ron Boyle contributed the image below taken of the Halema`uma`u vent last night:

Hale nani o Pele ( Pele’s beautiful home); the Halema’uma’u Crater in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was the place to see lava glow in a spectacular setting for the past two nights.

The USGS posted some great photos of the Halema’uma’u vent lava , and I added two of them below.

USGS caption: “Spectacular eruptive activity has been occurring deep within the collapse pit in Halema`uma`u Crater at Kīlauea's summit. At times, a river of lava poured into a deeper plunge pool of lava, which had a dome fountain on its right-hand side.”

If you missed this USGS QuickTime video clip recorded looking down into the lake of lava December 28th, 2009, check it out here

Inflation returns:
In recent postings on this site I have been discussing the six days of magma deflation and how that had caused a nearly complete cessation of lava flowing down the mountains to the sea. Yesterday at my usual 11:00AM posting time I mentioned a sharp up-tic in the Pu`u O`o magma pressure graph. Well that up-tic became a surge up in the hours that followed; as the graph below reveals. The Pu`u O`o magma pressures shot up past the already elevated Kilauea pressures. Together this equals a pretty strong inflationary period, which should translate to not only the strong display of lava down inside the Halema’uma’u Crater vent, but also a resurgence of lava somewhere near the eruption zone near Pu`u O`o Crater cone.

Coastal Lava Viewing:
This new resurgence of lava pressure near Pu`u O`o will likely do one of two things, or both: Continue to break out on the surface high up on the mountain near the crater then start down the mountain toward the sea in the days & weeks to come, or re-enter the massive existing lava tube system that was previously established but now drained-out during the deflationary stage of this past week.

The 1st of these two possibilities has already begun. Last night from the County lava viewing area off the end of Highway 130 we were able to see a strong lava glow high on the mountain near Pu`u O`o: surface lava on a large scale. But what is still unknown is the 2nd possibility; will the new lava find and re-enter the pre-existing lava tubes?

If the new lava does not find the tubes it will likely continue to come down the mountain as surface flows and eventually create a new lava tube on its way to the sea. This scenario can takes days or weeks. But today, and in the next few days & nights, we may have the answers.

Last night no visible lava was seen at the ocean entry point where it has been flowing for twenty months. Tonight there is a much better chance lava will return there if, like I layout above, the molten lava relocates within the established lava tube system.

Wind direction is still favorable for the viewing area today if lava does return. (Unfavorable SW winds are forecast to arrive over the weekend though :) You may phone the lava-viewing-hotline at 961-8093 after 3:00 PM each day to find out if the area is open. That hotline will not inform you whether or not lava is flowing there.

High surf warnings still posted Beaches on the north & west shores were closed yesterday due to very high and dangerous surf.

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