Kilauea: the lower Puna eruption of 1955

Pele in lower Puna. 1955

In Hawaiian folklore, Pele is vengeful and unpredictable. Her habitation is well known: Kilauea leaves little doubt about where Pele lives. But you never know where she may appear next. She shares this habit with Kilauea. It has a clear summit and all the action stems from there. But where the action will be next is anyone’s guess. Over the years, as for a change she was immovably from the same location, this was forgotten about. But in recent weeks it has become abundantly clear again, as within days she went from a stable-looking dual-eruption site to draining these two completely and turning the magma on distant Puna.

It was always changeable. Below, a table of eruptions is reproduced, copied (with minor fixes) from of the Hawaii Centre for Volcanology. From 1790 to 1924 there was (perhaps intermittently) a lava lake at the summit. This drained in 1924 with a significant explosion. From 1924 to 1955 there were mainly brief summit eruptions. In 1955 the heavens opened on Puna, and since then most of the activity has been in the eastern rift zone, from 1983 almost continuously at Pu’u’O’o. Since 2008 there was activity both there and at the summit. But over the past years the flow rate from Pu’u’O’o had bene declining, and the lava more rarely reached the ocean. Mid April this year, a blockage developed at Pu’u’O’o and lave began to back up, first inflating the magma reservoir at Pu’u’O’o and later also at Kilauea. On April 30 the rift opened and magma began to flow into the rift. The Pu’u’O’o eruption was abruptly cut off. And on May 5, Puna was hit again, right in the middle of a new housing development that wasn’t there last time Pele came looking. One can argue whether it was a folly to build on a known rift. But in Hawaii, you take your chances. Even Hilo or Kona aren’t safe.

Kilauea historical eruptions. Edited from the Hawaii Centre for Volcanology
Year Date of Outbreak Duration (days) Location Volume
(cubic meters)
1750 (?) East rift 14,200,000
1790 (?) East rift 27,500,000
1790 November (?) Caldera No lava flow
1823 Feb-July Short Southwest rift 11,000,000
1832 Jan 14 Short East rim of caldera (?)
1840 May 30 26 East rift 205,000,000
1868 April 2 Short Kilauea Iki (?)
1868 April 2 (?) Short Southwest rift 183,000
1877 May 4 1 (?) Caldera wall (?)
1877 May 21 (?) Keanakakoi (?)
1884 Jan 22 1 East rift (?)
1885 March 80 (?) Caldera (?)
1894 Mar 21 6+ Caldera (?)
1894 July 7 4 (?) Caldera (?)
1918 Feb 23 14 Caldera 183,000
1919 Feb 7 294 Caldera 25,200,000 (?)
1919 Dec 21 221 Southwest rift 45,300,000
1921 Mar 18 7 Caldera 6,400,000
1922 May 28 2 Makaopuhi and Napau (?)
1923 Aug 25 (?) 1 East rift 73,000
1924 May 10 17 Caldera No lava
1924 July 19 11 Halemaumau 234,000
1927 July 7 13 Halemaumau 2,300,000
1929 Feb 20 2 Halemaumau 1,400,000
1929 July 25 4 Halemaumau 2,600,000
1930 Nov 19 19 Halemaumau 6,200,000
1931 Dec 23 14 Halemaumau 7,000,000
1934 Sept 6 33 Halemaumau 6,900,000
1952 June 27 136 Halemaumau 46,700,000
1954 May 31 3 Halemaumau and caldera 6,200,000
1955 Feb 28 88 East rift 87,600,000
1959 Nov 14 36 Kilauea Iki 37,200,000
1960 Jan 13 36 East rift 113,200,000
1961 Feb 24 1 Halemaumau 22,000
1961 Mar 3 22 Halemaumau 260,000
1961 July 10 7 Halemaumau 12,600,000
1961 Sept 22 3 East rift 2,200,000
1962 Dec 7 2 East rift 310,000
1963 Aug 21 2 East rift 800,000
1963 Oct 5 1 East rift 6,600,000
1965 Mar 5 10 East rift 16,800,000
1965 Dec 24 <1 East rift 850,000
1967 Nov 5 251 Halemaumau 80,300,000
1968 Aug 22 5 East rift 130,000
1968 Oct 7 15 East rift 6,600,000
1969 Feb 22 6 East rift 16,100,000
1969 May 24 867 East rift 176,700,000
1971 Aug 14 <1 Caldera 9,100,000
1971 Sept 24 5 Caldera and southwest rift 7,700,000
1972 Feb 4 455 East rift 119,600,000
1973 May 5 <1 East rift 1,200,000
1973 Nov 10 30 East rift 2,700,000
1973 Dec 12 203 East rift 28,700,000
1974 July 19 3 Caldera and east rift 6,600,000
1974 Sept 19 <1 Caldera 10,200,000
1974 Dec 31 <1 Southwest rift 14,300,000
1975 Nov 29 <1 Caldera 220,000
1977 Sept 13 18 East rift 32,900,000
1979 Nov 16 1 East rift 580,000
1982 Apr 30 19 hr Caldera 500,000
1982 Sept 25 <1 Caldera 3,000,000
1983 Jan 3 April 30, 2018 East rift
(Pu`u `O`o)
2018 May 5 on going East rift, Puna

One can argue that 1955 was the year of change. This was when Pele became bored with the summit and became infatuated with the eastern rift.

Kilauea has shown three basic eruption mode. The touristy one is that of minor but photogenic activity at the summit, as between 1790 and 1955. The awkward one is the rift eruptions, as have been the bane of Hawaii since 1955. And the dangerous one is explosions from the summit. Those appear to have happened in the 200 years or so before 1800, culminating in the disaster of 1790. That year, the summit exploded just as a group of people traveled past. The explosion was the result of a violent intrusion of groundwater. First, there was a thin deposit of wet ash in which the traveler left footprints. Next, the eruption column, which was seen from 90 km away, dropped small stones (lapilli) in it. Finally, the collapsing column, or perhaps a new eruption caused a pyroclastic flow of steam and ash, covering the area west of the summit, with many casualties. It is easy to overlook the explosive nature of the summit. This was the memory that gave Pele such a reputation.

Footprints in the ash of the 1790 eruption

But that was all forgotten, and in case, 1790 was before the occupiers came from the west. Puna, in the eastern rift zone had seen no activity since 1840. Apart from an explosive event in 1924, Kilauea had bene well behaved. Mark Twain may have written his famous depiction of Kilauea’s hell, but it was a hell fit for tourists. It was as if Kilauea had forgotten about it, just like the people had forgotten about Kilauea. The area had become a lush rain forest. This was many people’s idea of paradise. The tropical garden would grow anything that could see some soil. I have not had any sweeter pineapple than from this region. Hawaii was never a rich area and paradise can make for a harsh living, but living here must have made it seem worthwhile.

The summit had also gone to sleep. But after 18 years of quiescence, there was another summit eruption in 1952. The summit now began to inflate, in spite of a brief eruption in 1954. This was before Pu’u’O’o and the magma had nowhere to go.

What happened next is described in considerable detail in an article from USGS. To briefly summarise, small earthquakes began to be measures in Puna in the second half of 1954. There has also been earthquake activity at the summit, but nothing in between. That may seem strange, for how had the magma managed to get from the summit to Puna without disturbing the region in between? The best way to avoid earthquakes is to have the liquid already in situ, as flowing magma does not create earthquakes: that is the shattering of the rocks. In hindsight, the magma had been finding a way long before, perhaps during the 18-year hiatus. The reservoir that 30 years later was going to create Pu’u’O’o was already there.

The following video shows the severe health and safety procedures which were in place during the eruption.

In February 1955 the earthquake count rose, and in the morning of Feb 28, the first fissure opened up. This was east of where is now Leilani, and which was forest at the time. The first eruptions were not particularly vigorous, with fountains tens of meters high, but the fissures extended eastward. After some interruptions and new beginnings, the fissures reached Kapoho village. Now the fountains were over 150 meters tall. The lava spared the main town, but the road was cut on either side of the now isolated town. (Kapoho’s reprieve was temporary: the town was later lost in the eruption of 1960.)

The eruption paused on March 7. Now activity shifted westward, up-rift, where new fissures opened on what is now west of Leilani. The road here was attacked in images that look eerily similar to 2018. The eruption spread and became vigorous, with fast flows cutting the coastal roads.

The Kalapana road in 1955. Source: HVO/USGS

By April 8 the lava flows had ended, but there were still occasional outbreaks from spatter cones. In May, there were some new flows coming from Ilewa crater which did damage. On May 26, after 24 different vents had erupted with at least four major lava flows, activity abruptly ceased. It left a community shaken and farms and houses destroyed, but no lives were lost. It did change behaviours and beliefs: the number of food offerings made to Pele greatly increased during and after the eruption, although in a sign of cultural change, the traditional gifts of breadfruit, bananas, pork and tobacco were now often presented in Christmas wrappings.

The lava flows from the 24 vents of the 1955 eruption. Source: HVO/USGS

USGS mentions that the early 1955 lava was unusually differentiated, suggesting it had been in local storage for a considerable time. Kilauea only ever produces basalt, with MgO ranging from a low of 7% to a maximum of 20%. But the early 1955 magma had MgO as low as 5%, a sign of crystallization over time. Had it been in local storage since 1840, perhaps? This is similar to the current eruption which so far has pushed out old magma. The old material must have cooled considerably over time, but apparently was reheated by the new magma. The opening rift pushed out the old material, but also turned it back into eruptable magma. Perhaps this had begun in mid 1954, and as the old magma slow re-melted, it opened the rift. It must have been a slow process, and perhaps with modern instrumentation HVO could have seen it happening. Later in the eruption the new magma arrived from the summit, and this was also shown by the deflation at Kilauea. Whether the change in lava composition is because of mixing with the new magma, or because of stratification in the local storage, remains hotly disputed.

So Puna is not just a recipient of magma that is pushed down the rift. It has its own storage underground. Drilling at the Puna geothermal plant has even found dacitic magma, at a depth of 2.5 km, which had differentiated (and cooled) even longer. Kilauean magmas can only produce a few per cent dacitic magma, so by the time this has happened there is very little magma left. But there are things happening underground and Puna is far from passive. The eastern rift extends beyond the coast, and at times has erupted directly into the ocean. The lavas here show a range of compositions, also with evidence for storage in the rift zone.

How long had the magma been in storage? This has been studied with radioactive trace elements, thorium and radon. With surprising conclusions. The magma had not been left by the 1840 eruption. The minimum storage time was 550 years! And it may have been as long as 2500 years. It seems that the 1955 eruption was based on events that pre-dated even the Hawaiian’s occupation of the island. Pele had been waiting for them. The trigger came from the summit, but the ammunition had been made ready longe before.

Sp how about the current eruption? When it is sated to have pushed out 1955 lavas, which lavas do they mean? And why is this such a wimpy eruption compared to 60 years ago?

The lava that is pushed is likely a mixture, as that is what 1955 produced. Interesting is that the current eruption was focussed on Leilani, which is exactly the area skipped in 1955. In a way, this was the region where 1955 was never finished. But why is there so little vigour? It is a good thing for the local population, apart from those people who still have lost their homes, through no fault of their own. The Earth too does terror.

The difference with 1955 is up-rift. Pu’u’O’o has been providing the east rift zone with a safety valve for the past 30 years. The pressure in the rift never build up, and presumably it has only been in the past year or so that any flow-through to the eastern rift restarted. The current eruption is running on fumes. The Kilauea summit reservoir is replenishing the rift and adding new pressure, but whether this is enough remains to be seen. 2018 is not 1995. We have television, mobile phones, youtube – it is different world. And Kilauea has developed a safety habit. But now, whilst the world seems to be returning to intolerance, Kilauea may be changing. Puna perhaps is petering out – but Kilauea could be starting a new era of explosions. Time will tell.

Albert, May 2018

427 thoughts on “Kilauea: the lower Puna eruption of 1955

  1. Very interesting, I only recently found out about the 1955 lava being 500 years old, though I have seen references to it being from 1924.
    I made a very long comment on the last article where mentioned that eruption rates in lower puna were much higher than in recent times prior to about 500 years ago.

    “In most of the first half of the last millenium there were eruptions on average every 7-15years in lower puna, while after 1790 there have only been 4 including this current one, so this area might become dangerous if a stable open conduit forms this far down. Keep in mind that kilaueas summit was also overflowing frequently and on a large scale between 1000 and 1470, and the big lava shield of kane nui o hamo (at least half the size of pu’u o’o) formed about 750 years ago too, so there are pretty striking similarities with the current situation… Im not sure if anyone has looked at that part of kilaueas history when comparing this current eruption, because the eruptions in lower puna separated by 60 – 100+ year time periods during historical time are unusual compared to most of the last 1000 years and might be a bad analogy for the future.”

    Also from the views on the livestream of fissure 17 as well as several fissures opening alongside it a bit further uprift, I dont think it would be right to say this eruption is ‘petering out’ yet… I do agree though that there probably wont be continuous rift eruptions after this. Overlook crater will probably start again though, maybe with a bang if groundwater has gotten into the vent, but probably not something that will destroy the system like in 1924, but I dont really know. This is all very unpredictable in the short term.

    • Very unpredictable, I agree. We should not just assume it is a copy of 1955. But without that, we have lost our point of reference. It would be surprising of after this things continue as in the past 30 years, but even the restart of Pu’u’O’o can not be excluded.

      • Well out of all the historical eruptions there 1955 is the most similar. 1960 made a massive cinder cone and really only erupted from a small area but with a big volume.
        The 1840 eruption though was a monster, the only eruptions in hawaii that are comparable have come from mauna loa and even then it is only the huge ones like 1950 that can reasonably outdo it. Lava to the ocean in less than a day over 11 km of very flat ground…
        If this eruption was a repeat of that then leilani estates would not exist anymore, neither would any of the areas downslope, and likely there would have been hundreds if not thousands of deaths, which is quite a massive deal for a volcano that is so well known everywhere as the most ‘friendly’ volcano on earth and is as well studied as kilauea.

        Somehow I dont think kilauea will be quite so friendly in the near future, with the overlook crater likely waterlogged it will probably blow up when more magma erupts there when pressure eventually rises, likely not a long term or extremely damaging eruption but something very dangerous to be anywhere near. Eruptions at karthala volcano in the Comoros islands have started this way before.
        Pictures here:

        This could be a huge problem for HVNP as new eruptions might take months or years to happen after such a massive drain but steam explosions could happen at any time and endanger anyone near the caldera.

    • Also have put their masks on have smelt Sulphur they think it’s from fissure 19.

    • It appears to be only about 60 hours late from the prediction made in the earlier article.

      • With the vagaries provided in that article, I think it’s pretty close in time.




        OBS VA DTG: 15/1745Z

        OBS VA CLD: SFC/FL070 N1926 W15517 - N1925 W15516
        - N1910 W15529 - N1916 W15535 - N1926 W15517 MOV
        SW 5-10KT

        And since it’s not an actual eruption, the following info is dubious at best, but FL070 works out as .04 m³/s DRE. The main difference is that the ash is old rock from previous emplacements and is mainly fragments of crater wall. I do suspect that some of the finer ash will be from magma that became entrained in the explosion.

        Data is derived from formulas within the Mastin et al paper. (The paper is geared specifically towards volcanic eruptions and is not really intended for pure phreatic events) The methodology of the paper bases the ejecta rate on the heat content needed to drive the column to a specific altitude and is derived off of work by Sparks. From that aspect, it is somewhat useful for phreatic events since the column height is driven by the same heat process soon after the ejecta clears the top of the vent.

        Also note that according to Mastin et al, the derived ejection rate can vary by a factor of 4 from the actual values. A very important point to concider when referencing any VEI data that I come up with using the method of integrating the ejection rate over time. (I use time marked column heights from the VAAC reports set to equal intervals (seconds) and then run an integrating function across that plot.) As of this VAAC report, I calculate the total DRE at 650 m³. In other words, VEI-0 for the time being. *The VEI scale gets funky below VEI-2 and is no longer a simple increase by 10x of the lower levels volume. VEI-2 will not occur until over a million cubic meters is ejected.

        • And using data up to
          ADVISORY NR: 2018/028

          Total ejecta is at around 4299 m³ DRE. Multiply this by about 3 or 4 to find the approximate volume of unconsolidated ash/tephra.

  2. Here’s a query; low MgO content means the magnesium’s gone somewhere So, probably into olivine crystals, Iron-magnesium silicate with the highest melting point of any rockforming mineral Since olivine is heavier than the main melt, these crystals will sink Is it possible, therefore, that somewhere deep in Kilauea’s guts there are pockets of olivine cumulates? (think of a sort of red-hot sediment) Have any Kilauea lavas brought up lumps of this stuff, do we know, and if so could changes in composition give clues as to the eruptive history? (Bit of a long shot, that, since my recollection of long-ago mineralogy lectures suggests that olivine is pretty simple in composition)

    • 1840 was picture Picrite basalt with a high olivine content, and apparently it occurred from the lower part of the feeder system so it probably got a lot of those crystals by dredging them up from those areas where olivine accumulates.
      1959-1960 also had a lot of olivine too so it might have been the same thing.

  3. I have a newbee question.
    Could the phreatic explosion likely to happen at the main crater, happen more than once, this time round? Will it self-destruct or could it possibly reload with fresh rubble in the conduit?

    • Depends on where the ejecta lands and on how stable the vent walls are.

    • The explosion can in theory create a enviroment where there is just steaming and no pressure buildup. Or water no longer can reach the lava. But generaly if the conditions remain right, multiple explosions can occur.

    • K.BryanHI noted that his battery is starting to give out and that he would be back online once he got a recharge.

      Both video streams that I have seen are shot from a road near the summit.

      • Yeah, it was amazing footage!! I’m wondering how long this will go on…

        Here another link with livestream.

  4. Check

    Live Panorama of Puʻu ʻŌʻō Crater Single Frame from the North Rim [POcam]
    Last Updated 2018-05-15 11:42:07 (HST), 2018-05-15 22:42:07 (local)

  5. Massive eruption right now. Really black cloud. Might be the first real explosion.

  6. According to Hawaii News Now, the Puna Geothermal Venture plans to conduct a kill operation on it’s well heads by injecting cold water into them and capping them off.

    How this will work out in the long run is a point for discussion. 1st, has the extraction of thermal energy from their wells caused the rock at depth to be less prone to intrusion from the dike, and 2, what will happen when magma eventually gets to the water and superheats it? At below the depth where you reach the supercritical point of water, nothing different than normal. Above that… things could get energetic.

    • Does not make sense to me. Why dont they just open the tops up and let the water boil off? That way the water around the holes could dry up and help prevent steam explosions? It not a nuclear reactor that needs to be covered with water.

        • I do not know if they put chemicals into the wells to increase performance of the wells. When I did look into why the Pentane was being used at the plant I never found any references directly to the product and its use but I did find that they use organic products to run a secondary or waste turbine. I did read a little about the geothermal plants south of the Salton sea and the issues they had with all of the chemicals coming out of solution and affecting plant operations. If the eruption continues escalating then most of the people in the area will be evacuated and the venting of any gases (which are most likely coming out of the fissures already) would have little? impact. I know that there was, and still is, a lot of opposition for this plant to be allowed. It seems that the utility is aware of this and might be moving to close it down. I wish the best for all of the families out there, please be safe, your home can be rebuilt.

  7. Live Panorama of Kīlauea Caldera from HVO Observation Tower [KIcam]
    Last Updated 2018-05-15 13:00:10 (HST), 2018-05-16 00:00:10 (local)


        It is interactive. I would zoom in a little to the area you want to monitor. Then on the right you will see an instrument tab, pick the seismograph and then click on which one you want to look at. It will usually give you 4 graphs but some of the new instruments only report the last 6 hours. Some of the instruments do not report, you will figure this out by experience.

  8. Lots of steam from behind the rift area. Could we be seeing an rift or eruption of PUU Kaliu? Just under KLUD.

  9. Wow this event really is evolving quickly, can barely keep up! At first, I thought raising the ACC to Red was far too early considering the plume is only at 12,000ft, but after seeing the images of how much ash is being produced… If someone had told us 2 months ago that all this that has happened was coming, just imagine the reaction!

    • mjf
      I think that they are a little smarter than us and lucky to have called this for this at around Mid May!

    • Well 3 weeks ago the most plausible idea was a new flow at pu’u o’o. it was expected to be somewhat bigger than the previous ones but instead we got a lava lake overflow and then everything drains out and now we get to see kilauea as it usually is…
      In reality I think the only reason it was so quiet for the last 30 was because trying to make a lava fountain through a 300 meter deep lava lake is practically impossible, it was evident from the explosive decompression when rocks fell into the lake that it was not degassed magma. The lava fountains at fissure 17 are even more evidence of that. Its basically the same scenario as to why putting a hose on spray doesnt work if you try to make it spray through still water.

      Once that fresh summit magma gets to the active vents (it hasnt yet, all the lava erupted so far is locally stored or from under pu’u o’o) I think things are going to pick up significantly, meaning it would be a very bad idea to be anywhere near where these fissures are… The arrival of 1959 summit magma caused the 1960 vents to go from 100-150 meter fountains up to 500+ meter fountains, so things could get way bigger than it has been so far. If the summit has deflated enough to lower the GPS by 50 cm then there is a huge amount of magma that is going to the lower rift zone. If it went into the puna ridge like in 1924 I would assume it isnt going to do much, but that is not what has happened this time around. The dike hasn’t gone further downrift than the hwy 132 cracks so all of that magma is still under the active vents and I think its only a matter of time before it gives somewhere and pours out. I dont know how much the lower rift has inflated by but I’m guessing it is a number in the triple digits in cm. 1955 and 1960 both went really huge towards the end of their eruptions, so it would be somewhat expected that this would do the same thing too, it could be after a pause of up to a month though so it might take a while.

      • That is a scenario, TurtleBirdMan, makes a lot of sense. But how about; the reason why the earthquakes haven’t propagated past the west side of Kapoho is…that there’s a batch of magma (1955/1960) east of there still plastic enough not to crack? It’s almost criminal that there isn’t a tiltmeter in Kapoho. It’s a long shot but I’d love to see the eruptive fissures on the littoral.

        • I think something like that would not so much be a fissure as a hole in the ground with a lot of ash. It might end up something like kapoho crater.

        • “almost criminal”

          Be careful of phrases such as this. You might give some litigious idiot an idea. Italy proved that morons will sue over just about anything. They got the conviction overturned, but the whole matter proves my point.

          “Scientists involved in disaster assessment everywhere anxiously watched the 13-month-long trial that led to the geologists’ original conviction. Many felt it was unfair to hold the geologists accountable for not predicting the earthquake.”

          And note, the whole thing merely served as a way for lawyers to siphon money into their pockets. No lives were saved by the lawsuit. The only good thing is that Six Italian geologists were cleared of manslaughter charges in the follow-on court action by a judge who obviously has a clue. Unlike the bureaucratic dip-shits that ran the prosecution. Their only interest was in deflecting blame in not dealing with the lack of building code enforcement for quake prone areas.

          Blaming someone else seems like a common theme.

          But… people will ignore published hazard maps just to have a shot at a hot address.

          I looked into this. The tower is built on “reclaimed” land that used to be part of San Fransisco bay. Guess what happens when liquefaction sets in during the next quake in the wrong spot?

          But, people threw their money at it and will/are sueing because THEY didn’t do due diligence.

          Point of fact. Catastrophes WILL happen. It’s just a matter of time. Science can not give you when and where it will happen. As noted in a conversation here in the last couple of days, it’s like Schrödinger’s cat. Geology has long sought a way of doing quake prediction… but there are just too many discrete variables that no one has access to that are needed to make any sort of prediction.

          Example. Hollister and Parkfield California sits astride the San Andreas fault system. The land there undergoes just as much slip as the rest of the San Andreas… but it has no quakes to speak of. After localizing the source of one quake, geologist drilled down to the location of the quake and took samples of the rock strata. What did they find? Soapstone. (the source rock for talc). {Hydrated Magnesium Silicate} In other words, Magnesium Silicate that has undergone serpentinization. What’s another serpentinization product? Chrysotile, Amosite, Crocidolite, Tremolite etc. The source rock for Asbestos. It comes from the hydration of the crystal structures of oceanic crust. And back to my point, it is not cost effective to dig up the entire expanse of the San Andreas to determine if it passes through brittle or soft rock. And without knowing the tensile strength of all of the rock and the prevailing stress patterns, no feasible prediction can be made. Statistical GUESSES can be made, but they are still just guesses founded on measurable data. In other words, probabilities, which is what most hazard maps are based off of.

          • When this all started I thought that the people who lived in Leilani Estates had taken a gamble and lost, because surely anyone living there would know of the risks. Then I came across this:


            “5. If the map was made for general planning purposes, why were so many building permits issued and so much construction allowed in Zones 1 and 2?

            While the USGS prepared and made available the Lava-Flow Hazard Zone Map for general information and planning by land-use managers, there is no legislation requiring its use. The USGS provides hazard information but cannot advocate for, or require, its usage for a specific purpose. Thus, this question is best directed to the County of Hawai&3699; Planning Department.”

            Also, part of the answer to FAQ #14a:

            “There is evidence of eruptive vents both north and south of Leilani Estates. But, unfortunately, many of the volcanic features indicative of the active rift zone—craters, cinder cones, steaming vents—are disguised by lush vegetation or have been removed by quarrying or grading, which leads to a false sense of security.”

            So, my take is that developers were allowed to ignore the risks inherent in risk zone 1 (Leilani Estates) and many people who moved there were not aware that they had moved to a much riskier place than other areas on the island. Did they not do due diligence? I agree that they probably didn’t look enough into local natural hazards. Then again, not everyone is well educated and too many people think that governments would prevent housing developments in areas where an eruption is considered a “when” not an ‘if’.

            Hi Lesley: the system put this in the ‘for approval’ queue. Future comments should appear immediately – admin

        • There can be many reasons for a lack of tilt meters. They are not the easiest instruments to install and HVO only has 15 for all of Kilauea. They need to be away from disturbances. GPS is easier, and there is one installed in the area (although the data is not accessible for that one). Seismographs are easiest and they are all over the place. HVO has been a step ahead of events at every point of this eruption. No one has been hurt, even with explosions on the summit as the park was closed in time. Outside of the park, HVO can only warn and advice, and they have done that very well. I salute them.

      • “it was evident from the explosive decompression when rocks fell into the lake that it was not degassed magma.”

        I don’t hold to this idea. A water saturated bolder falling into magma has enough water flashing to steam to provide the vigorous explosions we are seeing.

        Example: The Te Maari Crater explosion at Tongario lofted material 6.5 km. → Phreatic only.

        • I have heard that too, but I somehow doubt that rock that close to the lava lake would be waterlogged after being baked for 3 years by the high lake level from 2015 up to a week ago. HVO also did a study on the lava lake a while ago and found that the upper part of the lake has a density of 0.9 g/cm3 when solid basalt is about 3.5 g/cm3, so there is a lot of gas in the summit magma, and when rocks fell on it the impact was enough to cause explosive decompression. There most likely was steam involved but it was not the biggest factor there.

        • Well, that is something I can buy into then. The falling moist rock acts as mentos dropped into a carbonated drink.

          (Provides a lot of gas nucleation points.)

          Of course, that would also make this a phreatomagmatic explosion… I still haven’t seen anything from HVO about it though.

    • Also technically, before this all started, I did give the possibility of it going downrift into puna, even if I didnt really think it would actually happen any more than anyone else. I think I also gave a date of May 4th which was almost spot on for when the first fissure opened.


  10. The last VAAC update put the plume at FL100, that’s about 3 km. For Kilauea that’s about 1826 meters above the summit and around 0.69 m³/s DRE. I have seen no reports that new magma is involved, so for the time being, this is still just phreatic activity.

    VONA 20180515/2323Z;

    "Ash emission from the Kilauea summit vent will likely be variable with periods of increased and decreased intensity depending on the occurrence of rockfalls into the vent and other changes within the vent.

    At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent."

    "Resource on volcanic ash hazards:

  11. Based on ADVISORY NR: 2018/029 DTG: 20180516/0215Z,

    I now estimate the total DRE from the summit activity at 14,197 m³. Still VEI-0.

    This does not include rift zone extrusion… and I don’t even know how effusive magma would be rolled into a Volcanic Explosivity index (VEI). VEI has long been an issue for geologists and volcanologists about how that relationship works.

  12. The PGCam view just switched to low-light mode, and it looks like there is glow at one of the fissures in Leilani Estates. About half way through the fissure line, a bit to the right of the bright light at PGV.

    Did one of them start erupting again?

      • it is not the chickens, it is the rooster telling everybody things are ok, if the chickens are restless it is the roosters fault for keeping them happy

  13. It’s so frustrating. Every time I think I’ve found a live feed, it turns out to be a recording. I guess my timing must be off.

    • The guy who was livestreaming last night apparently said he would be back today. He also apparently said he was leaving the island today, so who knows? The stream was being broadcast by “Live Storms Media” so you may want to keep an eye on them to find out if they are streaming again.
      (He has to run the cam off of battery power and only has so many charged batteries …)

  14. The number of earthquakes in the caldera has gradually increased. I guess most of these are related to subsidence, but still, they’re causing more cracks.

    • ”BREAKING: Officials report at 8:36 a.m. a prelim 4.2 magnitude earthquake shook near the summit region of Kilauea. The US NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center confirms there is NO tsunami threat.”

      • We are that far. Everytime there is no tsunami the officials have to announce it. The age of enlightenment.

        • That is becouse people on the coast are instructed not to wait for a tsunami warning. But to run to higher grounds after they feel a quake.

          Announcing there is no threat informs them it is safe.

    • 000
      WEHW42 PHEB 161833

      833 AM HST WED MAY 16 2018





      ORIGIN TIME – 0831 AM HST 16 MAY 2018
      COORDINATES – 19.4 NORTH 155.3 WEST
      MAGNITUDE – 4.2




    • The West rim spectro WRM looked like the sound of a fifty-car train wreck. Now, the summit camera only shows steam rising off the hot interior walls of Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook Vent.

    • About 2.511886e+11 Joules of energy release… about 6 tons of TNT equiv.

      Though a moderately sized quake, it is well beyond Twinkie™ range so I won’t do the calculation.

      Bah… I’m bored. → 444,708 Twinkies. (using the pre-bankruptcy 135 Calorie reduced sized Twinkies as a reference)

      For them that don’t know what the Twinkie thing is all about.

      Some time ago, when Eyjafjallajökull was still acting up, commenters would get highly excited over tiny quakes. The Twinkie calculation was done just to show how incredibly small those Mag 1.0 and 1.1 quakes were. The method is straightforward. Find the energy release in joules, then convert that to kilocalories (1 kCal = 1 nutritional Calorie). Then divide that by the food energy of a twinkie, or a standard cheeseburger. Most quakes and large explosions are given an equivalent TNT tonnage by the media as a reference for the general public… but, most people are not readily familiar with just how large an energy release a ton of TNT is. However, people are familiar with twinkies and cheeseburgers.

      Not diminishing the size of this quake, it was quite large… but most likely it has to do with steam explosions in the crater, or shifts in the crater structure. Bardarbunga can easily toss out Mag 3+ quakes as its crater/caldera shifts following the Holuhraun fissure eruption.

      • I’ve been using that as a measure in my head of how much rock moved

        lets say a person eats 3 meals a day – and lets say that’s about 3 big macs a day

        and how much earth can a person move with a shovel in a day -5 hrs digging in soil gets a 10ft pit just big enough for a person to stand in – so 3 big macs worth of earthquake would be a small rockfall’s worth I figure – I wonder if that works out the other way 🙂

  15. The fissure explosions seem much more powerful today. Commentator is saying there have been smallish eq’s almost constantly over the last few minutes.

  16. Apologies for the outage, we experienced an unexpected hack attack from somewhere, but all seems to be working fine now.

    For piece of mind, please make sure your firewall software and Anti-virus software is kept up-to-date and your system is regularly scanned.

    • OO wondered what was up….. “denied access” and couldn’t remember what i had done wrong to be denied access….. not surprising… can’t remember what i had for breakfast or if i’d had lunch…. Glad to be back…. i trust this site and the people on it to be informed and give me the correct information on what ever is going on in the world….. including the last movie i saw which i couldn’t remember the title…. You Guys and Gals are Great!!! Best!motsfo

    • Can’t find my firewall software or ant-virus software.. OOps, Chrombook doesn’t need them. I figure I’ve saved hundreds of hours since I switched, following all of my grandchildren.

      • Just a matter of time… Apple enjoyed some measure of “immunity” for a while since their OS-X was based off of a BSD Unix™ fork. But, they are beginning to see stuff written to exploit them as well.

        • Hilarious. I betting I’m safe unless something happens to Google…. or if they ever charge for all that free stuff. I still use a PC for my 3D print design, my Arduino/ESP software, etc.

  17. Last night I was watching one of Ikaika’s livestreams from s few hours earlier, and apparently the magma from fissure 17 is still 1955-1960 old magma and not new stuff, so even at this stage and with how big fissure 17 has been already the 2018 intrusion hasn’t technically erupted yet.
    A bit later though he was talking about what he asked to HVO and said that they told him ‘when o’o magma starts erupting, you’ll know about it’. Seems like HVO is expecting something big, this eruption is far from over…
    Some of the cracks in leilani are getting wider too, so there is still inflation of that area, probably another indication of new magma.

    • I can see that it’s not what I think of as Hawaiian lava, and I understand that at some point it may become a much more liquid form of lava.
      Any clues as to how long the change from one lava type to another would happen ? By degrees, rather than by a single event ?

      • The only analogy that I can think of is when draining an oil pan on a very neglected engine. At first the thick sticky goop comes out then once it clears, it gets quite prolific very fast. So quick that you can’t get the oil plug back in place to slow or stop it.

        It’s really gonna depend on how much pressure is left in the system when it gets to that state.

        • I was thinking that if that were the case, the danger associated with the lava flows could really ramp up, and people could get caught out by the speed of the change all the more so because of the already existing lava field and cracks.
          Where they may have had a fair idea of where a very liquid flow might have gone had it erupted on the ground as it was a couple of weeks ago, it may flow very differently in an altered landscape, and it will potentially do so at speed.
          It only takes a small change in the path of a flowing liquid to significantly alter its course and destination further down the path of the flow.
          If the magma becomes significantly more explosive than it was 12 hours ago, the people shooting the live streams are going to have to retreat…possibly very quickly.

    • There was no noticeable change in 1955. In 1960, the fountain stopped for a few minutes then started erupting the 1959 batch. In 1977, I don’t think the change ever occurred—the last episode produced a lava flow 40 feet high.
      I wonder how the change to 2018 will manifest itself. So I wonder if the geologists Ikaika spoke too are basing this off 1960, because a basalt-to-basalt flush isn’t common. Probably Heimaey but was hard to see a difference to my eyes at the time.
      It’s also possible that 2018 magma never erupts, though not likely and I hope not…

      • The lavas during the 1955 eruption changed composition between the ‘early’ and ‘late’ phases. Early on, MgO was about 5.0%. Lter it became around 6.5%. It is attributed to two or more mixing episodes between pre-existig, cool magma, and newly arrived hotter magma.

        e.g. “Lava from some eruptions, notably the early part of the 1955 eruption on the lower east rift, has the composition of the liquid fraction as it is generated within the rift. Lava compositions of other eruptions, including those of the later lavas of 1955, are best explained by mixing of magma supplied from a central reservoir beneath Kilauea summit with the differentiated liquid in the rift.”

          • We’ll he new stuff would be more fluid and probably noticeably hotter, and it would probably erupt as a jet rather than slowly welling out of the ground and degassing violently like it has been so far. Compare fissure 17 to the western kamoamoa vent. Both are about the same size and have erupted about the same amount of lava, but the 2011 vent was a lot faster and more fluid, so it took only 1 day to do what it has taken fissure 17 4 days to do.

            Also to do with the amount of pressure there is, I think if enough magma had intruded into the area to cause a drop of over half a meter at the summit, but all that magma is still under the known vent area, then there is going to be a LOT of pressure behind it…

          • Actually make that closer to 1 meter drop at the summit…
            I read that 1960 was 350 microradians which would be 35 cm, so this event could be massive actually…

          • 350 microrad is not the same as 35 cm. You are assuming that the tilt extends over 1 kilometer length, that the tilt is measured towards the point of deflation, and that the point where the measurement is made is itself not moving. In practice, you need a scaling factor to correct for all the assumptions.

            Since the initial event, the SMC tilt measurement has shown a decline of 250 microrad. Data for the other instruments around Kilauea is not available from their web site. That 250 microrad for that location corresponds to 1 meter deflation of the floor of the crater.

          • Well the point I was making is that this event is about 2.5 times bigger than what happened in 1960, the deformation reading was taken from the same place, at uwekahuna bluff, so I think for this event now to not end in a major eruption is very unlikely.
            1924 didn’t have an eruption because the intrusion went into the puna ridge without any hesitation, there is a possibility that it erupted there but this isn’t known.
            This current intrusion has stopped under a point that is on land, so all of the magma that has come down, and this magma is still coming down, HVO still reports northward movement of the GPS at Pahoa.
            This means all that magma is building up under the areas where there are active vents. With the relative longevity of fissure 17 I think it will be where magma from this year surfaces, so far all that it has erupted is old magma probably from a larger pocket of mixed composition left after the 1960 eruption ended. This is probably why the eruption so far would be much better classified as a strombolian eruption than a hawaiian eruption. I guess the new magma will break out within a week with how much pressure there is now, if it happens at fissure 17 or near it then I dont think it will do too much, but if it happens in leilani estates or where the hwy 130 cracks are then its going to do some massive damage. I would also expect it to produce more of a proper lava fountain than what has happened so far. Basically once it happens it will be pretty obvious…

  18. The GPS and tilt meters indicate that the summit has been deflating steadily since the onset of the Puna episode, so the cracks around the summit now are most likely related to the deflation and thus not much risk of these cracks developing into eruptive fissures.

  19. Cracks reported in highway 11, the main road across the south of the island.

  20. Live Panorama of Kīlauea Caldera from HVO Observation Tower [KIcam]
    Last Updated 2018-05-16 15:00:06 (HST), 2018-05-17 02:00:06 (local)

    • I wouldn’t go so far as saying collapse (except for parts of the crater wall)… more of a subsidence.

  21. There’s not much to see on the cameras, but the different live streams are reporting ash fall around the summit, so there’s probably been a large rock fall

  22. There’s also Brandon Clement’s stream. He’s not online at the moment, but the commenters still are.

    • Anyone have a live link…?? it’s that or i have to go do housework…. 🙁 Best!motsfo

        • Im watching that right now and it looks like the activity hasn’t really decreased at all, the only difference is that there is only one continuous fountain now but it is bigger than it was the other night.
          Last night there were two fountains but they were barely able to get above the tree, while now there is only one but it is usually going way higher than the tree, sometimes over twice as high. The rate of explosions seems about the same.

          • Some of the explosions are way bigger now.
            And in his last stream, Brandon said that the tree line in the foreground is about 300 feet above the fissure. That gives some better clue as to the energy being released.

    • Whenever our rooster crows here, I think of Rusty the lava rooster there. Another thing to remind me of a volcano. 🙂 I’m watching that stream now. It currently looks like July 4th fireworks.

    • Remarkably so, and visible over much of the island. It happened at the same time as a large recovery in tilt at Kilauea.

      • Is that an offset from an earthquake, just after 18:00?
        The tilt is dropping again after that, so it looks like it is just a temporary thing, even though it did cancel out the last 48 hours of so of tilt change.

        • There was a surface quake just south of Kilauea at the time the tremor ended, at M3.1. Something released pressure in the region and I did wonder about a phreatic event.

          The tremor can also disappear if the conduit becomes filled up with lava. That is a prelude to an actual eruption, but seems hard to reconcile with the magma drainage that has happened here!

          • The surface cracks that opened earlier may indicate slippage on faults due to the magma moving elsewhere and the summit deflating.

            If this has slipped further and the fault is on the outside of where the tilt meter is, then that would show as a recovery of tilt as above, right?

            The summit may be adjusting to the new situation.

      • This seismograph is at the summit or at pahoa?

        Also rip overlook webcams, 2009-2018. Must have fallen in or been blown up…

        • This particular seismograph is at the southern rim but I could have picked any. Even MOKD on Mauna Loa shows it.

          And yes, tilt recovery may mean that the area on the other side of the tilt meter is now going down: it is a relative measurement so you don’t know which side is active. Although it has been pretty clear that there is deflation in the crater, and some of the movement was due to the slippage of the fault along the south coast.

          • I imagine tilt recovery is easiest explained like this:

            Top: before deflation.
            Middle: deflation causes tilt to decrease.
            Bottom: earthquake restores tilt on both sides of fault.

            The figures are of course highly simplified and exaggerated, but should illustrate the point.

          • And the point is well made. There are several ways it could have happened but this is definitely plausible.

  23. This is from about an hour ago and it seems like there was a big explosion and then it rained wet ash.

    Were there reports of cracks around the summit area in 1924? I know that halemaumau collapsed both in 1924 and 1960, but I dont know of any times other than now when there were cracks appearing outside the current caldera.

    • There is actually a sign right before the cracks in the highway that reads “caution fault zone watch for cracks in road”, so I’m assuming it happened before when the summit deflated.

      There was a big explosion of ash around that time. The whole webcam was gray.

      • I know there was an earthquake in 1983 northwest of kilauea that caused a lot of cracks to appear around the summit. I think that before kilauea was above sea level or just a small island, there was a fault zone on the south east side of mauna loa that was equivalent to the one on the south side of kilauea now. It is called the kaoiki(?) fault zone and while most of it has been buried it is still active to some extent while kilauea is too small to completely restrict it. I think that is where part of the 1868 quake also happened, there was another one there a few years ago that was big enough to be felt but not do damage. The 1983 quake caused massive cracks to form in the road despite being not a really big quake, so I don’t think it takes much to cause ground movement there.

  24. Re the quakes and cracks on H11, fron HVO’s latest update:

    “Several magnitude 3 or stronger earthquakes occurred beneath the summit today. The earthquakes were at shallow depth and resulted in cracks in Highway 11 near the entrance to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Some facilities within the National Park were damaged as well. The explosive eruption of 1924 at the Kilauea summit was also marked by hundreds of felt earthquakes as magma drained from the caldera.”

  25. The rate of deflation at Kilauea is decreasing. It is now going down by 5 cm per day: it has been double that.

    • Could deflation be spreading to a wider area? There might be a wider shallow magma reservoir somewhere under the caldera that could now be squeezed dry.

      • Well the summit has deflated by almost a meter so its really not surprising that its slowing down… The real action will be on the lower rift zone in the next few weeks or so when the new magma erupts.
        The 1924 explosions werent really that big (there was an explosion on merapi the other day that was as big as the biggest 1924 explosion but eruptions like that are expected there) its only because kilauea was even at that time known as a friendly and safe volcano, so for it to blow up that way was a big shock, also someone was killed by it.
        If something like the 1790 eruption happens though then that would be a genuinely big eruption, something like calbuco in 2015 or maybe even a lot bigger, and in that case I think those guys at the golf course would be screwed just like the people who made the footprints in 1790 were…

    • That vent on the right sounds like a jet engine, I understand what the people who heard the 1960 steam explosions mean now…
      One of the explosions from that vent went out of the camera view probably within 0.1 seconds, with the sound being more like an actual explosion rather than a rushing jet sound. Some of those lava bombs must have gone over 500 meters high based on how far away some of them landed and how long it took to fall…
      It would be pretty interesting to actually watch the arrival of the pu’u o’o magma to this fissure, the sudden change from explosive strombolian activity to continuous jetting of fluid lava, probably from all of the. I guess its going to happen some time in the next few days.

      • According to usgs she is already there : “You can think of the 1955 magma as being stagnant, and sitting underground beneath the lower East Rift Zone. There is always some magma in an eruption that doesn’t erupt and stays underground, slowly cooling but still molten. On April 30, magma drained from Puu Oo (and a few days later, from the summit), and began moving down the East Rift Zone. It encountered the stagnant 1955 magma underground beneath Leilani Estates and pushed that magma out. This explains why the initial fissure eruptions were sputtering and didn’t have much vigor (the magma was old and effectively flat, like an open soda). Once the 1955 magma had been pushed out of the way, fresher material that had traveled down the rift zone from Puu Oo and the summit began to erupt. This material had more dissolved gas and so erupted with more vigor, resulting in sustained activity at a few of the fissures (Fissure 17 is currently the main producer of lava) “

        • That is what I thought before, but I have heard since then that the magma erupted at fissure 17 is still old magma from 1955. I heard it on a livestream by Ikaika Marzo, but he got it by talking to HVO. This was only a few (5) hours ago. It is pretty obvious looking at the lava that this isn’t really hot and runny new magma. When the new stuff arrives it will look like the lava on the 61g flow, hot thin and very fast moving, like this video by EpicLava. That video was on the 11 February last year, if magma from pu’u o’o erupts at fissure 17 then the eruption rate would probably be at least 10 times higher than the eruption rate at the 61g vent…

          The other day HVO said “when o’o magma starts eruption, you’ll know about it“, so if even the professionals are talking about it in this light then I think that it has both not happened yet and when it does it will be big…

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