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In 2018, a new eruption of Kīlauea volcano changed the island of Hawai‘i forever. From May through August, large lava flows covered land southeast of the park destroying over 700 homes and devastating residential areas in the Puna District. At the same time, the summit area of the park was dramatically changed by tens of thousands of earthquakes, towering ash plumes, and a massive collapse of Kīlauea caldera.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Now Tracks Water at the Summit of Kīlauea
On August 1st, 2019, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientist confirmed a growing pond of water inside Halema'uma'u crater during a helicopter overflight. Similar to the monitoring of ponded lava in Halema‘uma‘u in 2008‒2018, HVO scientists are now relying on both direct observations and modern tools to monitor and document any changes to the water.
The water in Halema‘uma‘u is not visible from publicly accessible areas of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, but HVO recently moved one of its existing webcams to a site that provides a direct view of the pond. This temporary webcam doesn't have high enough resolution to discern small scale changes in the water level but will nevertheless be valuable for identifying larger scale events.
To measure the level of water in the ponds, HVO scientists use a long-range laser rangefinder. These daily measurements show that the water level has slowly risen. As of September 24th, the pond was about the size of a football field, including end zones—or about 110 m (360 ft) long, just over 50 m (164 ft) wide, and 10 m (33 ft) deep.
In recent media interviews, HVO scientists have discussed how the presence of water could increase the potential for explosive activity given the right set of conditions. At the current time, however, monitoring data do not indicate any signs of imminent unrest at Kīlauea's summit.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists were able to make additional observations of the water at the bottom of Halema‘uma‘u, including taking thermal images (as shown here), laser range finder measurements, and telephoto photographs.
Several hot fumaroles are present on the slopes within Halema‘uma‘u, with the hottest about 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit). The water pond at the bottom of the crater was about 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).
Current Conditions Courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
Preliminary summary of Kīlauea Volcano’s 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse (pdf 10.2MB)
Kīlauea Summit - Then and Now
Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008 Photo courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Kīlauea summit on August 1, 2018 Photo courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Kīlauea Summit - Before & After
NASA image taken on January 14, 2003
USGS photo taken on August 7, 2018
Last updated: October 17, 2019