Ranger Shyla explains how visitors can stay "Lava Safe" on the world's most active volcano, Kīlauea, by following these two simple rules: 1) Be Prepared. 2) Stay out of Closed Areas. It's Simple! Additional footage and photos courtesy of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Current Conditions Courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
August 21, 2017 - 9:03 AM HST
Activity Summary: Kīlauea Volcano continues to erupt at its summit and from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on its East Rift Zone. The episode 61g lava flow from Puʻu ʻŌʻō continues to enter the ocean at Kamokuna. Surface flows are active above the pali and on the coastal plain. These flows pose no threat to nearby communities. The summit lava lake level has dropped over the weekend, in concert with deflationary tilt, and is lower than 40 m (130 ft) below the rim of the Overlook crater this morning. There have been no major changes in seismicity or deformation trends across the volcano.
Summit Observations: Summit tiltmeters recorded slight net deflation over the past day. The lava lake level dropped in concert with the tilt; this morning it is lower than when it was measured at 39 m (128 ft) below the rim of the Overlook crater vent Friday afternoon. Circulation and spattering of the lava lake surface continued. Summit tremor continues to fluctuate in response to variations in lava lake spattering, and earthquakes occurred at normal, background rates. Summit sulfur dioxide emission rates remain high. Webcam views of the lava lake can be found at this webpage: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/multimedia_webcams.html.
Puʻu ʻŌʻō Observations: Webcam images continue to show persistent glow from long-term sources at Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Seismic activity is at background levels. The tiltmeter on the cone recorded a tilt excursion overnight that was related to local rainfall. The sulfur dioxide emission rate from the East Rift Zone vents has been steady over the past several months and remains significantly lower than the summit emission rate.
Lava Flow Observations: The episode 61g flow is active and entering the ocean at Kamokuna. Several large cracks cut across the active lava delta parallel to the coastline, indicating seaward slumping of the delta's leading edge. These cracks highlight the unstable nature of the delta and the potential of its sudden collapse into the sea. Surface lava flow activity persists on the upper portion of the flow field above the pali and on the coastal plain.
Ocean Entry Hazards: As a strong caution to visitors viewing the ocean entry (where lava meets the sea), there are additional significant hazards besides walking on uneven surfaces and around unstable, extremely steep sea cliffs. Venturing too close to an ocean entry on land or the ocean exposes you to flying debris created by sudden 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. This occurred most recently on May 3. In several instances, such collapses, once started, have also incorporated parts of the older sea cliff. Additionally, the interaction of lava with the ocean creates a corrosive seawater plume laden with hydrochloric acid and fine volcanic particles that can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.
USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory - Following the December 31, 2016, lava delta collapse at Kīlauea Volcano's Kamokuna ocean entry, lava continued to flow into the sea without building a new lava delta, most likely because the lava was cascading down a steep offshore slope to deeper parts of the ocean. But in late March 2017, a new delta finally began to form, although it was obscured by steam during HVO's March 30 overflight (left photo). The thermal image at right shows lava streaming into the ocean from the leading edge of the delta (bright yellow area in center of image) and the adjacent heated seawater (discolored water in the photo). It also shows the trace of the active lava tube that carries lava from the vent to the sea (right side of image), as well as small breakouts of lava along the tube and surface flows near the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent (top of image).
An aerial view of the Kamokuna lava delta reveals the recent surface breakouts (dark flows) that began on Sunday, June 25, 2017 with the short-lived firehose activity. These flows contrast nicely with the older, altered delta surface, which is much lighter in color. The crack noted in our June 22 images is clearly visible on the western (left) side of the delta in today's photo, and is a good reminder of delta instability. Link to full resolution photo (opens in new window).
The section of sea cliff above the ocean entry collapsed February 2, 2017 at about 12:55 p.m. The sea cliff had become increasingly unstable as a large crack 5–10 m (16–33 ft) inland of the ocean entry had more than doubled in width, from 30 cm (1 ft) to 70 cm (2.5 ft), over the past several days. A video camera, which had just been set up to monitor movement of the crack near the sea cliff, captured the moment of collapse.
Video of the lava lake splashing and sloshing inside Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kīlauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the evening of Sept. 7, 2016. This video was filmed by Sami Steinkamp, an intern with the Student Conservation Association's Centennial Volunteer Ambassador program. Sami was at the Jaggar Museum observation deck, about a mile from the eruption site, the closest visitors can get.
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Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Lava Flow Updates
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 into the ocean. The actual flow 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.
Park rangers have set up a Coastal Ranger Station (CRS) at the end of Chain of Creaters Road with eruption update, hiking and safety tip exhibits. 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. The park is open 24 hours a day.
Hiking out to the lava flow from the park is allowed, but it's not for everyone. From the CRS, it's a grueling, 7.4 mile roundtrip hike. Hikers may walk along the gravel emergency access route for the majority of the hike.
All who attempt to hike out the lava flows are urged to prepare ahead and bring a 2-4 liters or quarts of water for every person in your party, sun protection, a hat and wear strong hiking boots or shoes. If you hike out later in the day, ensure you have a good flashlight and extra batteries in case you are out after dark. Cell phone flashlights are not sufficient. See the safe hiking tips page for additional information on proper footwear, clothing, and other important safety information.
Stay safe, and be very mindful of poor air quality. When plumes of hazardous volcanic gases (sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid) are blown along shore, they are a threat to your health. It is currently best to hike in from the County of Hawai'i lava viewing area on the Kalapana side to access the ocean entry. The Kalapana access is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. It's about a 4.2-mile hike from the Kalapana boundary to the ocean entry viewing point, one way, along the gravel emergency access road.
If you do hike in from the park side, be aware that the gases get stronger the closer you get to the ocean entry. Rangers have roped off the park side of the ocean entry and placed signs warning of the toxic fumes. Be aware that even in the open areas, volcanic gases are likely to be at unhealthy levels. Volcanic gases are a danger to everyone, particularly to people with heart or respiratory problems and infants, young children and pregnant women. Check with rangers at the end of Chain of Craters Road about current conditions before you head out, review the exhibits, and obey all closures and signs. You can head inland to avoid the fumes, and hike until you get upwind of the ocean entry fumes.
Volcanoes are dynamic and ever-changing natural phenomena. The flow information, distances, and other lava information provided here can change at any time.
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.
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)
Pets, motorized vehicles, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and overnight camping on the flow field within the park are prohibited.
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.
December 12, 2016 - Closure of a portion of Eruption Area
Until further notice a portion of the area near the coastal lava flow known as 61g and described below will be closed by direction of the park Superintendant. The closure is based on the potential for airborne debris being projected up to 300 meters from a collapsing lava bench. Flying debris is a safety concern for the public and employees. This closure will be in effect until there is no longer a danger. Area to be closed: A 300 meter section within the boundary of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park that is marked with posted signs notifying the public of the closure, where possible will be augmented by a rope barrier. Due to the constant shifting of lava benches and ocean entries, this area is subject to change and is therefore only referred to by the current location of posted signs.
This map shows recent changes to Kīlauea's East Rift Zone lava flow field. The area of the active flow field as of July 10 is shown in pink, while widening and advancement of the active flow as of August 9 is shown in red. Older Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō lava flows (1983–2016) are shown in gray. The yellow line is the trace of the active lava tube.
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 https://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).
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.
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:
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.