Volcano researchers examine new eruption phase of Kilauea

Local News

KILAUEA, Hawaii (KHON2) — The new Kilauea eruption is now down to a single vent in the western wall of Halemaumau Crater.

The lava fountain from that vent is now about 13 feet down from 49 feet in the previous days.

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Scientists say so far about 4.2 billion gallons of lava has flowed since the new eruption began.

I’m standing about 1.2 miles away from the lava but researchers are getting as near as a few hundred yards away in order to collect samples to better understand this latest eruption.

“Who knows maybe the caldera eventually in decades or centuries it could refill and form another shield,” said Matthew Patrick, geologist at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Visiting Kilauea is walking into the unknown.

USGS geologists say Kilauea has entered a new phase ever since its 2018 eruption. It is one of the largest in centuries.

“It’s been erupting at about 10 cubic yards per second,” said Patrick. “So cubic yard is a fair size. Here you can imagine 10 of those coming out of the vent every second. So it’s coming out of this vent. The vent is very vigorous. It’s fountaining so there’s lava being ejected into the air.”

The lava then landing into the lava lake. Geologists rely on the smaller pieces of lava to fly away for research.

“People I work with, the geologists I work with, they are really interested in the chemistry of the lava because that kind of tells you where it’s coming from,” Patrick said. “Then it tells you about the magmatic plumbing system. What they have observed from the recent lava that’s been filling Halemaumau over the past year is that this is fresh lava. It is coming from fresh magma.”

The fresh magma means that it is recharging the magma chamber.

Even with the summit collapsing and more than doubling in diameter, it could be years for the lava to reach the volume of 2018.

At least for now, the lava lake is staying contained. Magma is not moving towards rift zones which could be a hazard to residential areas.

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“The main hazard is the gas plume creating vog on the west side of the island,” said Patrick “But once magma moves down the rift zone that presents a different kind of threat. That’s something that’s always on our radar.”

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