Spatter Cone

Watching the current eruption at Kilauea where the western vent fountains and churns leaves one with a practical understanding of how a spatter cone or spatter rampart forms. The blobs and globs of lava land around the vent where they cool. This builds up a substantial edifice around the vent.

Splatters of lava from the western vent Halemaʻumaʻu
Splatters of lava from the western vent Halemaʻumaʻu

The process is illuminating to watch in this current eruption. Every few minutes a large spash or jet of lava escapes the boiling caldron in the middle. The lava spashes across the ground around the vent. At first bright orange, the splash slowly cools and fades to deep red, then dark at it solidifies. The spatter cone is just a little bit bigger.

The spatter cone grows and changes shape daily. Visiting the eruption after a couple weeks one finds the cone drastically reshaped and much larger. Occasional a side will collapse and the process begins anew.

While it might seem fun to get a closer look at the current vent, this idea is also a quick way to die, the gasses and heat would quickly kill anyone who approached too closely.

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Mauna Loa Concerns

Like most armchair volcanologists on this island I have been monitoring Mauna Loa more closely lately. The deformation graphs in particular have been? Interesting. I have even gone so far as predicting that we will not get through the year without a Mauna Loa eruption.

An intense earthquake swarm on the NW flank of Mauna Loa
An intense earthquake swarm on the NW flank of Mauna Loa, March 30, 2021

The area of concern has been the western rift zone, exhibiting steady and shallow seismic activity for the last several years. More concerning is the rate of inflation shown in the GPS data, This seems to have doubled in rate around last October.

Then comes today.

An intense seismic swarm is currently occurring beneath the NW flank. Still fairly deep. a few kilometers below the surface, but getting shallower. Magma is definitely moving, a sizable mass moving upwards and emplacing itself higher in the volcano.

This may come to nothing in the near term. Like many seismic swarms it may stop. Just part of the process towards a future eruption some years from now, or never. Or we may be seeing the first step in a new eruption. I will hold to my prediction of an eruption sometime in 2021.

Sit back and watch.

Visiting the New Lake

The lava burst forth from the crater wall just before Christmas. After two years of quiet the volcano has again erupted. Within hours the lake of water that had been slowly growing had been boiled away in a huge plume of steam.

Gazing into creation at Kilauea Caldera
Gazing into creation at Kilauea Caldera with the stars of Crux and Alpha Centauri above

I knew within minutes that an eruption had begun, tapped into the island grapevine. While I considered making a midnight run across island I had to bow to the needs of life and regretfully went to bed.

Now well into the new year I finally had a chance to photograph the new lava lake.

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One Year Ago…

On June 3rd, 2018 Deb and I flew over the ongoing eruption of Kilauea. It seems so long ago, it seems like yesterday.

Fissure 8 Lava Fountain
The lava fountain at fissure 8 in Leilani Estates throwing lava hundreds of feet in the air on June 3rd, 2018

We looked down on a broad flow front, over a mile wide. The flow burning through orchid farms and papaya orchards, destruction that was painful to watch.

We looked down on a lava fountain hundreds of feet high. Fissure 8 was supplying a river of lava that spelled doom for Kapoho Bay and the beautiful tidepools at Waiʻopae.

A year later the lava is still cooling and the community is still rebuilding. Kilauea is quiet with no lava on the surface anywhere. We wonder where the next eruption will be.

May 18th, 1980

Living with an eruption of our local volcano through much of last year often brought to mind previous memories. The 2019 Kilauea eruption was the second eruption of my life, the first being the 1980 eruptions of Mt. St. Helens.

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens taken on the morning of May 18th, 1980, photo credit USGS
The eruption of Mt. St. Helens taken on the morning of May 18th, 1980, photo credit USGS

St. Helens was just another of the pretty mountains that dotted the horizon through much of my childhood. I could see it from my bedroom window, at least in the winter when the leaves were off the trees.

When the mountian started rumbling in the early months of 1980 everyone wondered if it will erupt. No one expected it to do what it did.

We did not hear the eruption, somehow the sound skipped over those nearer the volcano. It was the television news that first alerted us.

Seeing the reporting I ran out of the house and down the street a little bit to where I could see past the maple trees. There was nothing to be seen of that pretty mountain, just a dark line in the sky rising from where the mountain stood. West of the line it was a cloudy NW sky, east of the line is was just black.

After the eruption we could no longer see the mountain on the horizon, with 1,500ft gone from the top it no longer stood above the ridgelines.

A Walk in the Park

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park reopened to the public at the end of September. Reshaped by the eruptions the park has substantially changed since I was last there back in February. It was well past time I got myself out to the park to see the changes, it had been open almost two months!

Julian examines a lava mushroom near the 1969 fissure on the Mauna Ulu trail
I had resolved to go over the long holiday weekend. An additional idea occurred to me, if I was going, why not kidnap my young nephews along for the trip. We would leave the gals to whatever they will do, and go have an adventure.

Off we go.

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