A rare flyover using a drone provides a glimpse into dramatic changes happening inside Halemaumau Crater on the Big Island.
Flight restrictions have restricted access near Kilauea Volcano, but an authorized flyover by the U.S. Geological Survey was granted on June 24th.
The crater is drained of lava.
“It’s spectacular. It’s amazing to see from the drone, the expansion of the summit crater,” said Volcanologist and University of Hawaii at Manoa professor Mike Garcia.
Garcia says new cracks are forming outwards from the old crater.
“This thing is getting deeper and deeper as these explosions continue to happen. I’m not entirely sure what the means. You would have thought that whatever was going on initially, that magma would have drained out and gone down to east rift zone. That happened in the early days of May. Since that happened the explosion continued. Does that mean a deeper reservoir continues to drain?”
Garcia says it’s hard to predict what will happen next, because it’s too dangerous to observe the volcano directly.
Researchers rely on earthquakes and gravity to understand the eruption.
Another lingering question: will Halemaumau ever look the same?
“Certainly molten rock will come back to the summit. But when? We can’t say. But that is its history. The magma comes up from a deep mantle at that location. At some time eruptions will stop at the east rift zone,” said Garcia.
According to USGS, the deepest part of Halemaumau is now over 1,300 feet below the caldera floor.