What's Going On With the Volcano?

Current Conditions Courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
View of Halema‘uma‘u from Jaggar Museum
Cell phone photo of Halema‘uma‘u from Jaggar Museum on July 24, 2016

NPS Photo/L. Kroesing

August 23, 2016 - 8:58 AM HST

Activity Summary: Kīlauea Volcano continues to erupt at its summit and from its East Rift Zone. The 61G lava flow continues to enter the ocean at Kamokuna and produce scattered breakouts on the coastal plain and pali. The flow poses no threat to nearby communities. Activity of the Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake continues, with its surface around 28 m (92 ft) below the crater rim.

Summit Observations: The circulating lava lake within the Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook crater remains active. Inflationary tilt, which began Sunday afternoon, is ongoing this morning. As expected, the lava lake surface level has risen in concert with the tilt, and is approximately 28 m (92 ft) below the crater rim. This morning, views of the lava lake surface are visible from the webcams located at HVO. Seismicity rates are normal, with tremor fluctuations associated with lava lake spattering. The average daily summit sulfur dioxide emission rate ranged from 3,000 to 4,300 metric tons/day over the past week.

Puʻu ʻŌʻō Observations: No significant changes are visible on webcam images; persistent glow continues at the long-term sources within the crater. There was no significant change in seismicity. Inflationary tilt is ongoing this morning, with some portion of the signal likely due to high rainfall in the area. The sulfur dioxide emission rate from all East Rift Zone vents was about 270 metric tons/day when last measured on August 19.

Lava Flow Observations: Activity of the 61G lava flow, extending southeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō on Kīlauea's south flank, continues. The flow is entering the sea at several places near Kamokuna (labeled 'ocean entry' on HVO maps), spanning about 1 km (0.6 mi) of coastline, and building an increasingly large lava delta at the base of the sea cliff. Scattered breakouts continue, predominantly on the pali, and the makai (seaward) portion of the coastal plain.

As a strong caution to visitors viewing the new ocean entry (location where lava meets the sea) for Flow 61G, there are additional significant hazards besides walking on uneven surfaces and around unstable, extremely steep sea cliffs. Venturing too close to an ocean entry exposes you to flying debris created by the explosive interaction between lava and water. Also, the new land created is unstable because it is built on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand. This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf causing the new land to become unsupported and slide into the sea. Finally, the interaction of lava with the ocean creates an acidic plume laden with fine volcanic particles that can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.

Please see these fact sheets for additional information: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2000/fs152-00/

The 61G lava flow from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crossed the emergency road on July 25 and entered the ocean at 1:12 am on July 26, 2016
The 61G lava flow from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crossed the emergency road on July 25 and entered the ocean at 1:12 am on July 26, 2016

Photo by David Okita

Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō lava flow field
Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō lava flow field on July 18, 2016

NPS Photo/C. Weaver

July 15, 2016 - Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Lava Flow Updates

  1. The 61G lava flow, southeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, continues to stream down the Pulama Pali onto the coastal plain of Kīlauea volcano's East Rift Zone. Currently, the flow front is 0.5 miles from the ocean. The actual flow tip is moving slowly and many breakouts were active upslope and widening the flow field. Bright incandescence remains visible on the active lava flow field, marking areas of active breakouts.
  2. From the national park, the easiest vantage point to view the current eruptive activity is from a distance (about 4 or 5 miles away) at the end of Chain of Craters Road (CoCRd), past Hōlei Sea Arch. Park rangers have set up a Coastal Ranger Station (CRS) at the end of CoCRd with eruption update, hiking and safety tip exhibits, and a monitor that plays a four-minute lava safety video. Visitors are strongly urged to stop and talk with rangers and review all signage and watch the video at the CRS. The CRS is staffed daily and in the evening during peak visitation hours. A public spotting scope is also available to view the eruptive activity in the distance, as staffing allows. The park is open 24 hours a day.
Lava crossed the emergency road on July 25, 2016
Lava crossed the emergency road on July 25, 2016

NPS Photo/J. Ferracane

  1. Hiking out to the lava flow from the park is allowed, but it's not for everyone. From the CRS, it's a grueling, 10- to 12-mile roundtrip hike. Hikers may walk along the gravel emergency access route for the majority of the hike. A light beacon has been placed about 3.8 miles in to mark the closest point to the current flows.
  2. All who attempt to hike out the lava flows are urged to prepare ahead and bring a gallon of water for every person in your party. See the safe hiking tips for additional information on proper footwear, clothing, and other important safety information.
  3. If you plan to hike out, do it during daylight. There are no trails or marked routes on the lava field. It's easy to get disoriented and lost after dark. If you intend to stay after dark, ensure you have a good flashlight and/or a headlamp, and extra batteries. Cell phone light sources are insufficient.
  4. Volcanoes are dynamic and ever-changing natural phenomena. The flow information, distances, and other lava information provided here can change at any time.
Respect Hawaiian Culture at Lava Flows
  1. Experienced bicyclists may use the gravel emergency access route during the day. It is not recommend to ride bikes on the loose gravel after dark. Motorized bicycles are prohibited.
  2. Respect the Hawaiian culture. Do not poke lava with sticks or other items. Do not roast marshmallows or cook foods. To many Hawaiians, molten lava is the kinolau, or body form, of volcano goddess Pele. In addition, it is a federal offense to remove, destroy, alter, deface, dig or disturb anything from its natural state in a national park. (36 CFR § 2.1)
  3. There can be poor air quality at times due to volcanic gas and burning forest. Volcanic gases are a danger to everyone, particularly to people with heart or respiratory problems and infants, young children and pregnant women. If air irritates, smells bad, or you have difficulty breathing, leave the area.
  4. Pets, motorized vehicles, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and overnight camping on the flow field within the park are prohibited.
  5. There is a free viewing area set up by the County of Hawai'i: the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area off Highway 130 in Kalapana. Park rangers have set up a second light beacon along the park's emergency access route about 4.8 miles from the end of Chain of Craters Road (one mile past beacon one) towards Kalapana. The second beacon is about 50 yards inland of the route, and serves as a suggested starting point for hikers accessing the flows from the Kalapana side.
  6. Visitors are advised to "slow down and go with the flow." Hiking to the current lava flows is a 6-8 hour adventure for most fit hikers. Adding a roundtrip drive from the west side of Hawai'i Island makes for a very long day, and is not recommended. Remember: Kīlauea is also erupting from its summit crater, Halema'uma'u. You can safely and easily observe the summit eruption from the observation deck at Jaggar Museum, which is open 24 hours a day.
Kīlauea summit eruption viewed from Jaggar Museum
Kīlauea summit eruption viewed from Jaggar Museum
July 5, 2016 - Hawai‘i volcanoes National Park Press Release - Rangers Urge Park Visitors to View Latest Flows from Safe Distance

Please view this four minute video - "Plan for Safe Viewing of Lava Flows"

Coastal flow field
Coastal flow field

Courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

This map shows recent changes to Kīlauea's East Rift Zone lava flow field at the coast. The area of the active flow field as of August 12 is shown in pink, while widening and advancement of the active flow as mapped on August 19 is shown in red. The base is a Digital Globe image from January 2016.

Full resolution image (opens in new window)

Lava flow map
Lava Flow Map

Courtesy USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

This map shows recent changes to Kīlauea's East Rift Zone lava flow field. The area of the active flow field as of July 26 is shown in pink, while widening and advancement of the active flow as mapped on August 2 is shown in red. Lava reached the ocean on the morning of July 26. Older Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava flows (1983–2016) are shown in gray.

The blue lines over the Puʻu ʻŌʻō flow field are steepest-descent paths calculated from a 2013 digital elevation model (DEM), while the blue lines on the rest of the map are steepest-descent paths calculated from a 1983 DEM (for calculation details, see http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1264/). Steepest-descent path analysis is based on the assumption that the DEM perfectly represents the earth's surface. DEMs, however, are not perfect, so the blue lines on this map can be used to infer only approximate flow paths. The base map is a partly transparent 1:24,000-scale USGS digital topographic map draped over the 1983 10-m digital elevation model (DEM).

Full resolution map (opens in a new window)

Thermal Lava Flow Map
Thermal Lava Flow Map

Courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

This image shows a thermal map of the flow on the pali and coastal plain, created from airborne thermal images. White pixels are hot, and show areas of active surface breakouts. The background image is a satellite image collected before the current lava flow was active.

The thermal map shows scattered pāhoehoe breakouts on the coastal plain, with a narrow lobe of lava crossing the gravel road and extending to the ocean. The ocean entry has widened since it first formed on Tuesday, July 26, and now spans about 240 m (260 yards) of the coastline.

Full resolution image (opens in new window)

2016 Kalapana lava viewing area
County of Hawai‘i lava viewing area at Kalapana

NPS/J. Ferracane

July 3, 2016 - County of Hawai‘i Civil Defense Agency Press Release (pdf 110KB)
The active lava flow from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō is making its way toward the ocean. The County of Hawai‘i has opened the emergency road on the Kalapana side for lava viewing since Thursday, June 30, 2016, between the hours of 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm daily. This is outside Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and managed by the County. Please read the entire press release for more information.

Kalapana viewing area status (recorded message): 808-430-1966

Directions to Kalapana from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park: Take Hwy 11 towards Hilo to Hwy 130. Follow Hwy 130 until you reach the road's end and the visitor parking area. (45 miles).


HOT LINES for Eruption Information

Resources for more information about the lava flows:

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
by phone at: (808) 967-8862
by web at: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php

County of Hawai'i Civil Defense
by phone at: (808) 935-0031 (7:45 am - 4:30 pm)
by web at: http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/active-alerts/


The lava lakes in the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater and Halemaʻumaʻu crater, as well as other views may be viewed on webcameras made available by the scientists at USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Daily updates by staff that monitor Hawaiʻi's volcanoes provide visitors with the most recent observations on volcanic conditions.


If you are interested in more information about the Kīlauea east rift zone, we invite you to watch the video cast of USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geophysicist Mike Poland from our After Dark in the Park presentation on August 23, 2011. Mike discusses the volcanic history of the area. It's one hour in length and can be viewed here

Pu`u `O`o view from Pu`u Huluhulu before the collapse
Scott Rowland of The University of Hawaiʻi captured this shot of Puʻu ʻŌʻō from the Puʻu Huluhulu lookout the evening before Puʻu ʻŌʻō collapsed and the west flank eruption began on August 3rd 2011.

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