Kīlauea volcano is one of the five volcanoes on Hawaii, the Big Island of Hawaii. Eruptions have been happening there for hundreds of years. The eruption in 2018 has been very serious and long-lasting. My heart goes out to the people of Puna.
Timeline for Kīlauea volcano eruption
April 21 -27, 2018 the lava lake at Halema’uma’u overflowed
April 30 Pu’u ‘Ō’ō crater, down rift from the summit of Kīlauea volcano, collapsed and drained of lava. Pu’u ‘Ō’ō was an active source of eruptions since 1983.
Over 20 fissures opened in lower Puna producing lava, SO2 gas, and Pele’s tears, about 20 miles from the summit. Earthquakes occur daily at the summit, resulting in up to 3 plume explosions per day. Homes in Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens and other areas destroyed. About 500 people living in shelters. The Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park closes. Animals were left behind in the rush to evacuate. Along with pets, cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens were left in inaccessible areas.
- May 3 Cracks, fissures, gases, and lava begin to erupt in the Lower East Rift Zone in Leilani Estates south of Pahoa.
- May 4, 2018 Halema’uma’u crater at the summit of Kīlauea volcano had a major collapse producing an ash plume with a magnitude 6.9 earthquake.
- May 11, 2018 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closes.
- May 20 Fissures 16 through 20 make fountains that produce a lava flow that reaches the ocean.
- May 21 Fissure 22 produces a lava fountain 160 feet tall.
- May 23 Methane gas emerges from cracks in the ground. Vegetation buried by lava produces gas that makes a blue flame.
- May 25 Fissure 8 (Ewalu) reactivates works up to fountaining over 200 feet in the air. Lava flow becomes a channelized river.
Fissure 8 (Ewalu) continued to produce over 7 million gallons of lava per hour, pouring through a channelized river to Kapoho. New land continued to be produced.
- June 2 Lava enters Green Lake and boils away the 500 year old lake.
- June 4, 2018 The river of lava from Fissure 8 traveled 8 miles, covered Kapoho and began building new land in Kapoho Bay. Homes destroyed rises to close to 700.
- USGS HVO video of ocean entry at Kapoho
- June 24 Rescue of farm animals by helicopter begins
Hot Seat Hawaii video of cattle rescue by Axel Kratel, Paradise Helicopters, and Kia Hawaii
Fissure 8 continued to pump lava through the channelized river to Kapoho. The SO2 gas produced is about 20,000 tons per day. 50 to 100 cubic meters of lava per second from the 180-foot tall cone at Fissure 8 (USGS 07.10.18) 800,000 to 1.6 million gallons per minute. Over 760 acres of new land has been added to the island.
The earthquakes at the summit fall into a pattern with hundreds of earthquakes during day building up to a large magnitude 5+ quake happening every 21 – 35 hours. The summit collapse produces small ash plumes. About 2 hours after the large quake, a surge of lava happens at Fissure 8. About 250 people living in shelters. The National Park continues to be closed. Tiny homes at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pahoa open for evacuees.
- July 11, 2018 The lava river changed course and inundated Kalea destroying the warm ponds at Ahalanui State Park, beloved Kua O Ka La school, and Secrets surf spot.
- July 17, 2018 A lava tour boat was in the Kalea ocean entry vicinity when a lava bomb hit the boat. 23 people were injured, one quite seriously. A hydrovolcanic explosion can occur when ‘a‘ā lava suddenly comes in contact with seawater under the surface.
- July 28, 2018 An outbreak of lava from the channelized flow near Halekamahina started a brush fire that burned several homes and buildings.
As the month began, Fissure 8 was still pumping lava in a pattern that included pulses and a surge about an hour after summit collapse. The surge would reach the ocean entry about 12 hours later. USGS calculates the flow to be about 0.5 cubic kilometers (1.32 x 1011 gallons or 1.32 hundred billion gallons). The Kīlauea summit area was experiencing 600 to 900 earthquakes per day. A large magnitude 5+ earthquake with summit collapse would occur approximately every 40 hours. 155 people living in shelters with more living in tents. 840 acres of new land formed and 13.4 square miles covered with lava. Lava had spread to the Po’hoiki area (Isaac Hale State Park), very close to the boat ramp.
- August 2, 2018 Day 91 A collapse event at the summit was a 5.4 magnitude earthquake at 11:55 Hawaii Standard Time.
- August 4, 2018 Day 93 The lava river appeared crusted over and the lava within Fissure 8 dropped down to where it was only occasionally flowing out of the cone. The ocean entry was still active.
Terms and hazards
Laze, SO2, vog, littoral explosion, lava boat (wa’a), ʻaʻā, pāhoehoe, magma, lava, Pele’s hair, ash plume, lava bombs, methane flames, tephra, reticulite, olivine crystals, tumulus
Lava boat (wa’a) video from Ikaika Marzo
- USGS Volcano Hazards Program Glossary
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Kahuku Unit is open (Highway 11, mile marker 70.5, Ka’ū). Ranger talks continue at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in downtown Hilo and Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani Campus in Volcano Village. Jaggar Museum and Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory are being shook and covered with ash. Cracks are appearing in the parking lot, overlook, and possibly foundations of buildings. Volcano House is not damaged (but not open either ;).
History of Lower East Rift Zone Eruptions
210 × 106 m3
94 m3 /s
81 × 106 m3
31 m3 /s
122 × 106 m3
38 m3 /s
by July 30
430 × 106 m3
by July 15
100 m3 /s
Resource links for Kīlauea volcano
- Kīlauea maps from USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory provides lava flow maps with give lines of steepest descent and flow area. Also gives periodic thermal maps made with a handheld thermal camera and helicopter.
- Google map created by Dane duPont shows locations of homes lost.
- Earthquake data for Kīlauea. USGS HVO.
- Videos from Mick Kalber, Tropical Visions Video
- Photos from Bruce Omori, Extreme Exposures Fine Art Gallery
- YouTube channel for Big Island Video News has Civil Defense announcements, USGS updates, and community meetings.
- YouTube channel for local Puna geologist Philip Ong
- Eruption Lens app by Puna geologist Philip Ong.
- Article on Puna citizen geologist Philip Ong, from Weatherboy 08.04.18
- Kalapana Cultural Tours
- Timelapse gif of radar images of Kīlauea volcano caldera. USGS HVO
- Timelapse of lava flow maps May – June. USGS HVO
- Timelapse video of Kīlauea volcano summit April through July. USGS HVO
- Report from USGS to National Park Service and Hawaii Civil Defense from July 5, 2018. Explanation of Kīlauea volcano eruption along with two-month forecast of scenarios that could happen. Worth opening and looking at images!
Report from USGS to Hawaii Civil Defense from July 15, 2018. Analysis of the potential impacts of the eruption in the Lower East Rift Zone (Puna). Includes a timeline of the activity, the hazards, and what could happen.
From meteorologist Malika Dudley, a video report on the marine life affected by eruption
Video of Beneath the Sea Surface: What’s Happening at the Ocean Entry from Malika Dudley, meteorologist for Big Island Now.
- A Kīlauea volcano fact sheet from 2004. Gives a short overview of the geologic history. US Geological Survey
History Channel documentary from 2007 on how Hawaii volcanoes work. 44 minutes.
People to follow on Facebook
Mileka Lincoln, Ikaika Marzo, Hot Seat Hawaii, Tropical Visions Video Inc. (Mick Kalber), Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery (Bruce Omori), Philip Ong, Hawaii Tracker, G. Brad Lewis, Andrew Hara, Micah Gauthier, Ken Boyer
Giving to help Puna evacuees
- Pu’uhonua o Puna Monetary donations:
Bank of Hawaii has an account set up with the name Pu’uhonua o Puna. Drop by or call any branch to make a donation. The bank account # is 0094851327. Go to www.boh.com and click on Locations to find a branch. All money collected will go directly to residents impacted by lava activities. If you want to give online, you can do that via GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/puuhonuaopuna
- Cecily Wagner is managing the official Amazon wishlist for Pu’uhonua o Puna
Scroll through to see the latest list of what the people need
Looking to ship/mail items to Pu’uhonua O Puna
Since mail to Pāhoa is impacted, please send donations to either address listed below. This will ensure pick up and direct delivery to the Hub…..Mahalo
Pu‘uhonua O Puna
c/o Ashley Kierkiewicz
2366 Kinoole Street
Hilo, HI 96720
Ryan K Towing
16-366 Railroad Avenue
Kea’au, HI 96749
I’ve been using the Ryan K Towing on Amazon – they put up videos when they unpack the boxes!
this list has a Hilo address built in. The Gauthiers are amazing! They add to their list from needs all around the community.
- Please help the Hawaii Lava Flow Animal Rescue Networkby fulfilling one or more requests on their Amazon Wish List:
World Central Kitchen is providing 1000 hot meals a day to the people of Puna, over 50,000 meals
- Gas gift cards help all those delivering supplies to the shelters, camps, and the Hub. National stations in area are 76, Texaco, and Shell. I have bought 76 gas cards on the website
Ryan K Towing
16-366 Railroad Avenue
Kea’au, HI 96749
- Kua o Ka La school is having to relocate and with school starting up again soon funds are needed to keep the wonderful education our keikis are given going. Donations are needed. Please give if you can. https://www.gofundme.com/relocate-school-displaced-by-lava
- The Hawaii Tracker team has been working without pay for months to provide up-to-date accurate information on the eruption. Please give if you can. https://hawaiitracker.com/
Methane and blue flames
An explanation of methane and the blue flames from geologist Janet Babb:
Video of methane flames from USGS, 05.22.18
“With lava now advancing through lush vegetation along Kīlauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone, these explosions have become a concern. If you approach a lava flow that’s encroaching on vegetation, you risk being greeted by the blast of an explosion. Depending on how close you are to the advancing flow, your experience could range from hearing a far-away “boom,” to being thrown several meters (yards) across hard, abrasive lava as the ground beneath you disintegrates. Regardless of where you’re standing, the sound of these explosions is a call for your respect!
As a lava flow enters grassland or forest, all the biomass in the flow’s path becomes available for one or both of two processes: combustion and/or pyrolysis. Lava erupted at Kīlauea is around 2100 degrees Fahrenheit — about four times hotter than your kitchen oven’s maximum temperature. Most natural materials on the ground surface, such as grasses and shrubs, are immediately burned up (combusted) as lava covers the area. But the bases of large trees are often encased in lava, charring the outside trunk, but not completely burning the inside.
When lava advances across the ground, surface vegetation either burns or is buried before it can combust. Intense heat from the lava flow also radiates downward and slowly “cooks” the buried vegetation or subsurface plant matter (for example, roots). The lava temperature is high enough to accelerate chemical breakdown of biomass as it heats or distills the organic compounds (natural gas) from the buried grass, shrubs, ferns, roots, and other vegetation.
On Kīlauea, both producer gas and the gas generated by the lava flow consist of a mixture that includes methane, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide. Beneath molten lava, the gas mixture from “cooked” biomass invades subsurface passages, such as old lava tubes, and below ground cracks and voids. This natural gas, of which methane is just one component, combines with air in these empty spaces to form combustible gas pockets.
Recall from high school science that with the right proportions of fuel (such as methane), oxygen (such as air), and heat (such as a match), you can make fire. When the underground air-fuel mixture is between 5 and 15 volume-percent fuel, a spark—or heat from a lava flow—can ignite it. If ignition occurs in a constricted space, such as an underground void or old lava tube, an explosion might occur. This is similar to what happens in your car’s engine. As the air-fuel mixture is ignited in the confined space of the engine’s cylinders, the energy released ultimately propels you down the road. Likewise, if you’re standing above a subsurface void when it explodes, you might also be propelled—upward—by the blast.
Natural gas explosions (often called “methane explosions”) can occur beneath an advancing lava flow, thereby throwing molten rock into the air, or beneath old lava, throwing boulders, up to a yard (several feet) in diameter, skyward. The combustible gas mixture can seep into void spaces tens of meters (yards) from the margin of a lava flow, so it’s important to stay well away from active lava that’s moving through vegetation—especially lush vegetation like that on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone.
Subsurface natural gas can also seep passively to the surface. With heat from molten lava, methane can burn with blue flames—like those recently observed on and near the current lava flows. Countless “methane explosions” have occurred during the past 35-plus years of Kīlauea’s ongoing eruption—and some have resulted in injuries to unwary spectators standing too close to hot lava on vegetated land. But it’s easy to avoid this hazard. Keep a safe distance—and respect any “booms” you hear. They’re trying to tell you something!” https://www.usgs.gov/staff-profiles/janet-babb
Geochemistry of erupted lava
From US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, July 27, 2018 Volcano Watch:
“What’s happening inside the volcano?” is just one of many questions asked about Kīlauea’s ongoing lower East Rift Zone eruption. Looking at the geochemistry of erupted lava can help us answer these questions.
Magma supplying Kīlauea’s eruption is composed of melt (molten rock), mineral crystals, and dissolved gases or gas bubbles (exsolved gases). Elements that make up magma can stay in the melt or can build crystals depending on the magma temperature, pressure, and abundance of other elements.
Experimental work has found that the elements magnesium and calcium move between the melt and specific mineral crystals depending on temperature. So, the amount of magnesium and calcium in lava reflects the temperature of the magma.
Some elements do not fit into any mineral crystals that grow in Hawaiian magma. These elements increase in concentration as magma cools and more crystals form. So, the abundances of these “incompatible” elements reveal if magma has been stored before erupting. If stored long enough, the magma’s composition is changed as crystals grow and the amounts of incompatible elements increases.
When the first lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) lava sample was collected on May 3, 2018, the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo geochemistry lab swung into action, working with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to determine, within hours, that the erupted lava was from stored magma. The LERZ lava was much cooler (about 1090 degrees Celsius, or 2000 degrees Fahrenheit) and more “evolved” than any Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava (typically 1140 degrees C, or 2080 degrees F) erupted over the past 35-plus years. While this finding was not a surprise, it was the first time it had been documented during an eruption.
But there was one surprise: Fissure 17—the only vent not in line with the others—erupted the coolest and most chemically evolved lava ever found on Kīlauea. Its temperatures were as low as 1030 degrees C (1890 degrees F).
Previous lower rift zones eruptions on Kīlauea have shown a similar pattern—evolved magma erupted first, followed later by hotter, “fresher” magma. The early LERZ lava erupted in Leilani Estates is similar in composition to the early 1955 lava, which erupted in the same area and seems to be the most likely candidate for the parental source.
Finding evolved magma stored in the lower regions of Kīlauea, the site of many past eruptions and intrusions, is to be expected. During past events, not all of the magma reached the surface once the driving pressure was gone. That stored magma then evolved over time.
Because Kīlauea is so massive, it can take decades before magma comes back to a given area. During that time, stored magma cools, grows crystals, and slowly changes in composition. When a new intrusion forces its way through the volcano and up to the surface, it may encounter one or more of these stored magma bodies. The intrusion magma can push out and/or mix with any stored magma that is still liquid.
As the LERZ eruption continued, samples collected on May 11 showed that the lava composition had shifted to slightly hotter (1105 degrees C, or 2020 degrees F) and less evolved magma. Soon afterward, eruptions from fissure 20 produced ʻaʻā flows that rushed to the ocean.
Over the next 12 days, the lava chemistry became progressively hotter and less evolved until it leveled out at temperatures of 1130–1140 degrees C (2070–2085 degrees F). The arrival of this hotter lava preceded the high-volume, sustained eruption of fissure 8, giving scientists a heads-up that something might change.
This new lava includes abundant and visible olivine crystals, some of which resemble the type of olivine crystallizing in summit magma before the LERZ eruption sequence began. The lava composition we see now doesn’t exactly match recent Puʻu ʻŌʻō or summit lavas, but it is similar. This correlates well with geophysical observations that the volume of the summit collapse is similar in magnitude to the volume of LERZ erupted lava.
Magma travels up to 45 km (28 mi) through Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone, cooling and potentially mixing with stored deep-rift magma to create lava of slightly different compositions. Our ongoing geochemical detective work should help us get a better handle on what’s happening inside the volcano.
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