The volcano is up to something.
This morning began with a series of strong earthquakes along the eastern rift zone of Kilauea. The island was buzzing about it, the local news, social media, it was the main subject of conversation in our trucks headed to the summit. By this evening there have been over 250 earthquakes, including many of 3rd and 4th magnitude, along the rift zone, a clear sign of lava moving underground.
Avid volcano watchers like myself have been keeping close tabs on the eruption for the last couple weeks. The 61g lava flow that has been the main outlet for lava for the last two years has faded into inactivity. The deformation data at the main caldera and at the Puʻu Oʻo vent has indicated steadily increasing pressure in the volcano.
The increasing pressure has raised the level of the lava lake at Halemaʻumaʻu to the point of overflowing into the larger crater multiple times over the last week. This alone can be spectacular as it is easily viewed from the viewpoint at the Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanos National Park.
This evening the USGS issued an unusual second daily update on the activity. The statement confirms what many of us had already guessed from the earthquake maps, lava is moving further into the eastern rift zone. A breakout is possible in a new location anywhere from the main caldera to Kapaho.
Speculation is buzzing… When? Where? Too early to tell. Personally I think today’s activity may have lowered the pressure in the system a bit. I expect a slight pause, maybe a few days, before something breaks.
I also wonder if this may spell the end of the eruptions at Puʻu Oʻo that have been the center of activity since 1983. Maybe not. I was reminded that others have counted Puʻu Oʻo out before, only to see it resurge in activity.
Interestingly, while the island is abuzz about the volcano, there has been absolutely no mention of the situation outside of Hawaii, not a single article in the national news. A Google news search shows simply no mentions in the national press. I expect this to change before too long, certainly a new eruption will be all over the news very quickly.
To be clear, Deb and I face no risk from the ongoing eruptions, we live on the other side of the island on the side of the much larger, and far quieter Mauna Kea volcano. Mauna Kea has not erupted for well over four thousand years.
I worry about those who live on the eastern rift zone of Kilauea, including folks we know. There are hundreds of homes and businesses, people’s lives and dreams at risk if the lava emerges at the wrong spot.