Kilauea I: Magma waves from the phantom rift

Each volcano is an expression of a magma architectural construction, a great sculpture of chambers, pipes and sills, as intricate as an ant colony, or rather like the roots of a plant. This is all hidden away from our view, under kilometres or tens of kilometres of rock that makes it impossible for us to know what lies down there, or perhaps not? To me a volcano is a puzzle of many aspects, geochemistry, earthquakes, structure and eruption behaviour, among others.  A puzzle can only be completed by taking all the pieces and putting them together. Not an easy task. I will attempt to assemble the puzzle, or at least part of it, of my favourite volcano. Kilauea. And it all starts with a caldera collapse in 2018.

As I write this, three years ago the summit of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii was collapsing into a caldera. Its shallow magma chamber emptied laterally through fissures in its rift. It might seem like this was a while ago and is now over, but is it? The collapse set off a series of cascading consequences that are still rippling through the molten structures of Hawaii Island. The deflations of Mauna Loa, a swarm of tremor and earthquakes under the town of Pahala, the recent eruption of Kilauea, all might be connected and it has just barely started, I will argue how this all happened and how all the events would be related.

We should first know a little about the connections of Kilauea with Mauna Loa and Pahala.


Kilauea and Mauna Loa

These two volcanoes have quite an interesting relationship. When one volcano is more active the other is less so. In particular each takes over for a period of 100-250 years, during which it gets most of the magma supply in Hawaii, then this activity goes to the other. They share the same magma supply. A far as I know this has been going non-stop for at least 2000 years. On a future article I will talk more about this aspect.

Volcanoes of Hawaii Island. From USGS.

Kilauea was dominant throughout the 18th century and until 1840. 1840-50 was a transition decade. Mauna Loa was dominant from 1850 to 1950. And Kilauea from 1960 to present. We are currently in an era of Kilauea and there is still more than forty years to go.

This relationship is best seen in the supply and the chemistry of the magmas. While Mauna Loa was dominant it erupted every ~3-4 years at an average rate of 1.2 m3/second. The total supply would also include dyke intrusions and slow spreading which could increase the total number by a factor of two or so. After the 1950 eruption its eruption frequency plummeted spectacularly. Dormancy periods have been 25, 9  and 37+ years. The output was reduced to 0.11 m3/second, a difference of a whole order of magnitude!

Kilauea mirrors Mauna Loa but in the inverse way. When Kilauea erupted continuously in the 1840-1920 period it did so at a rate of 1 m3/second and there were practically no large dyke intrusions. In contrast when Kilauea erupted continuously after 1960, during the Mauna Ulu and Pu’u’o’o eruptions, it did so at a rate of 4.1 m3/second, four times greater than in the subdued state. Ever since 1960 Kilauea has been rapidly inflating, spreading, and erupting. It has produced over 6 km3 in this time. The most productive volcano in the world. Overall Kilauea seems to erupt more, but it is clearly impacted negatively when Mauna Loa is more active.

From USGS.

Both volcanoes must feed from the same magma reservoir at depth, and through some mechanism the supply to this reservoir goes to either one or the other. But where? And how? All will be answered, but will have to wait for future articles, lets first take a look at the Pahala Swarm.


Kilauea and Pahala

A swarm of earthquakes has been raging under the town of Pahala since 2019. Actually the swarm has always been there, but its earthquake rates have skyrocketed starting in January 2019 and rising to unprecedented levels. The earthquakes are 30-40 km deep. And there is the tremor. The area just offshore Pahala is an extraordinary source of volcanic tremors. Almost all deep tremors of Hawaii originate from this location and are thought to be caused by magma rising up from the depths. Pahala would be a magma conduit then. The swarm has two parts the southern, deep, offshore swarm of of tremors, and the northern, shallower swarm of fracturing earthquakes. These two distinct parts are important when looking at the post-2018 series of events.

Deep earthquakes August-October 2019, when the Pahala Swarm was starting to ramp up. From USGS.

The Pahala Swarm is thought to be the magma feeder to Kilauea. How could we know this? When looking at a map the connection shows up quite clear, the Southwest Rift of Kilauea, which runs straight from its summit to the swarm, providing a useful connection. However the Pahala earthquakes are very deep, 30 km, does the rift really extend down to here?

Hawaii has a peculiar tectonic system powered by the magma supply. The rifts and the decollement faults. A rift is like a fracture system that is opening up and filling with magma, when simplifying things down a lot. The rift pushes away the flank of the volcano to open up space for the magma. The flank creeps on top of a nearly horizontal fault that is slightly upslope, a reverse fault, this fault is know as the basal fault, the basal detachment, or basal decollement. Why basal? Because it runs through the base of the giant lava pile that is Hawaii. Here the volcano rests on top of the depressed ocean floor 8-10 km below sea level.

The flanks of Hawaii Island are moving like a series of blocks away from certain rift zones. Crustal decollement refers to the basal fault. Created in Google Earth.

Because Kilauea is the volcano getting most of the magma now, then it is in front of Kilauea’s main rift, the East Rift, where we see these processes in action. The East Rift is continuously spreading very slowly,  pushing against the south flank which swells upward and contracts, being squeezed by the lateral pressure. This can be seen in action if one visits the data of the GPS stations that the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is monitoring on the south flank. When the basal fault can hold no more it breaks. The fault can rupture in earthquakes reaching M 7.9, some of the most powerful volcano-tectonic earthquakes in the Planet.

With all the mightiness of the basal fault a second, more modest system is often forgotten. Which is this unfortunate fault? The Mantle Fault Zone. It is called this way because it runs at a depth of 30 kilometres, in the lithospheric mantle. It happens to be a nearly horizontal fault similar in many ways to its shallower, larger relative, it can produce earthquakes reaching up to M 5.2, but most importantly has a very particular slip direction, 137º clockwise from the north, exactly perpendicular to Kilauea’s southwest rift, and positioned is such a way that it would open up the line from Pahala to Kilauea’s summit, and at the perfect depth. To put it simple, the southwest rift extends down to the Pahala Swarm and could provide an effective pathway towards Kilauea. More evidence for a Pahala-Kilauea connection is seen in the events following 2018.

I should also say that the magma chambers of Kilauea are most of them aligned with the southwest rift. This shows when there are deep sources or deflation or inflation, one of the most common sources of deformation that shows up is an egg-shaped pattern that is centred just southwest of Kilauea’s summit, is aligned with the southwest rift, and has the long end pointing towards Pahala. The main caldera of Kilauea formed in 1500-1790, has its outer scarps rectangle shaped with its long sides running parallel to the strike of the southwest rift. Currently the main axis of the Southwest Rift runs more or less coincident with the southeast margin of Kilauea Caldera, making a nearly perfect N 47º E direction line, that is perpendicular to the Mantle Fault Zone slip, and connects the most primitive magma eruptions of Kilauea, at Kilauea Iki, and Keanakako’i Craters, and the December 1974 dyke which marks the main rifting axis of the rift zone. This is seemingly a little detached from what must have been its original position.

The “egg pattern”. From USGS.

There is yet another structure that links Pahala to the summit of Kilauea. The Kaoiki Pali. I think this pali, which means cliff, is none other than the rim of an large ancient caldera of Kilauea. Why? you may think. Because it hasn’t ruptured in over 9000 years. Fault-related scarps like those linked to the slumping or to the rifts rupture frequently over and over. Kaoiki Pali also wraps around the summit of Kilauea like other caldera faults do.

The formation of this structure happened at a very particular time. Kaoiki breaks the Pahala Ash layers that formed until 11,000 years ago, but is covered by 9000 years old flows of Mauna Loa. It formed at 11,000-9000 years. This marks the most important transition in the recent volcanism at Hawaii, where Kilauea ended a lengthy period of powerful explosive eruptions known as the Pahala Ash, and resumed summit overflowing. Mauna Loa went from a period of low activity to a period of very high activity, maybe even almost uninterrupted dominance lasting a few thousands of years. It was a big change. Kaoiki Pali could have formed if the whole complex of magma chambers and sills placed along the Southwest Rift of Kilauea collapsed. Which I think is the best, although perhaps not only, explanation.


After the 2018 eruption

Back to the big eruption. In 2018 Kilauea erupted 1.2 km3 of lava and its summit caldera underwent a nested collapse. An event on this scale had not shaken the island since at least the 1868 eruption of Mauna Loa, if not since 1790. If there was any eruption that could disturb the hellish furnaces deep under the mountains of Hawaii it would be now. What do I mean by this?

An eruption drops the pressure of a magma chamber by extracting magma from it, which may increase the resupply from the magma source to restore the pressure. It just happens that 5 months after the 2018 eruption ended the seismicity of the Pahala Swarm started ramping up towards record levels. The seismicity of the previously suspected feeder to Kilauea Volcano. So presumably it did react to Kilauea’s pressure drop.

First came the tremors. As I’ve said the Pahala Swarm has two parts, the tremor swarm at ~40 kilometres deep, and the fracturing swarm at ~35-30 km. The Pahala tremors tend to always start with a sudden jolt and then a series of later spikes, these can be located much more easily, like they were earthquakes, than other types of tremor.

The tremor came much stronger than usual in 2019. There were 4 pulses. The first pulse had its main phase in January 11-January 23. The second pulse peaked March 14-April 2. The third May 12-June 3. The last pulse came more dispersed in a series of peaks and could be considered more like a bunch of small pulses lasting from June 26 to July 27.

After the 4 big pulses the tremor activity dropped to the typical low levels until mid-2020 or so when a second series of strong tremor pulses started. I will focus only on the first series though. I do know however that there was at least one pulse in the second series, in January 2021, that does rival the 4 big pulses of 2019.

Characteristic Pahala tremor episode.

The fracturing swarm exploded into existence in August 2019. I remember being really impressed by this strong activity and yet this was nothing compared to what was to come. The rock fracturing of this type is thought to be volcano-tectonic, caused by an increase in magma pressure which shatters the rock around the magma. The Pahala Swarm started almost above the location of tremors. If the tremors were related to magma flow, then the fracturing may have been due to this same magma pulse pushing against the rocks on its way up.

The swarming initially exploded near Palima Point, and then propagated 10 km northeast, towards Kilauea, until it reached the opposite end of the Pahala Swarm, where I suppose the magma must have dived into the southwest rift of Kilauea. This happened around the time of peak earthquake activity on February 2020, when HVO was locating 80 earthquakes per day here. Unprecedented for Pahala. The levels then gradually dropped through the remainder of 2020. In 2021 earthquakes rates have started rising again and have nearly reached the levels of February 2020. The first rise August 2019-February 2020 seems to correlate with the first series of strong tremors, the second rise in 2021 seems to correlate with the second series of tremors.


Magma waves?

I was eagerly waiting the magma pulse to hit Kilauea. Perhaps a bit too impatient. It took more than a year for the pulse to move just 10 km up and 10 km sideways from the tremor area to the closest end of the swarm to Kilauea, it was obviously going to be a long wait! But finally something happened, not in the way or the place I would have expected however.

Mauna Loa got weird. Weird means that the volcano started deflating quite markedly with no apparent reason to do so. This was around October 20, 2020. Hawaiian volcanoes, and volcanoes in general, deflate when magma is removed from their magma chambers to feed intrusions or eruptions. There was certainly no eruption. I didn’t notice any intrusion either, and I think I would have noticed, or at least HVO would have. If magma wasn’t removed by the conventional ways, where did it go?

Mauna Loa deflates twice. Modified from USGS.

2nd deflation event. From USGS.

The next thing did happen where I was expecting the way I was expecting. On the morning of December 2 a sudden surge of magma hit the summit of Kilauea. It was quite dramatic. I had been following Kilauea since the 2018 eruption and not much had happened. But all of a sudden there was the fastest inflation I had seen, within a matter of hours the summit “broke”, a dike rose towards the surface but failed to erupt. Kilauea kept inflating, on December 20 it snapped again this time the dike intersected the crater of Halema’uma’u and started an eruption.

History then repeated again, Mauna Loa started deflating abruptly on March 23, 2021. Then on June 1 Kilauea set off in another episode of rapid inflation. It was time to write down the hypothesis.

Kilauea getting two magma surges. The first was responsible for the December 2020 eruption. The pause in supply that ended the eruption could be correlative with the pause in tremor activity seen in Pahala before the 2nd tremor pulse started. Modified from USGS.


Timing of events

What do we know? First, Mauna Loa and Kilauea share the same supply and must be connected at some depth somewhere. Second, a large amount of magma rose through the Pahala Swarm in a series of 4 pulses in 2019. Third, Mauna Loa and Kilauea each have been hit by two rare magma waves, producing inverse effects on them.

Here is what I think. There was a magma chamber which reacted to the 2018 eruption, this chamber is where Mauna Loa and Kilauea are connected. A series of magma pulses rose, each pulse sent two waves, a positive wave towards Pahala and then Kilauea, and a negative wave towards Mauna Loa. Why negative? With each pulse the magma chamber pressure would have dropped pressure, remember that pressure drops when it feeds an eruption or an intrusion. This is an intrusion. The pressure drops would have manifested eventually at the summit of Mauna Loa, which is apparently closer to the source because it was hit by the changes earlier. Basically it would have lost magma due to the 2018 draining of Kilauea needing urgent resupply.

Presumably each volcano has been hit by the first and second pulses of tremor that took place in 2019. There is one problem though, the distance between them seems to have changed. The first and the second came 62 days apart in the tremor region, 154 days apart as they hit Mauna Loa, and at 181 days as they hit Kilauea. This would suggest the second pulse is travelling slower than the first. It is possible that the speed at which the waves move could be slowing down. The depressurization wave created by Kilauea was the fastest to reach Pahala in 8 months, the first pulse took 23 months to travel the same route up, the second 25 months.

This makes predicting the arrival of the third pulse complicated. Assuming that the interval between the second and the third changes by the same factor as the first interval, the arrival of the wave can be estimated, though how accurate it may it be remains to be seen. It may arrive at Mauna Loa on August 17, and at Kilauea on November 20. The third could be the strongest if the number of tremors are a good indicator.



The 2018 eruption of Kilauea keeps giving new surprises 3 years later. It seems that it set off a series of waves that are rippling right now through the magma system under Hawaii, and might continue to do so for years to come. There could be a lot to learn from this. The third pulse could provide the final confirmation that Kilauea and Mauna Loa are connected through a magma chamber that feeds into Pahala, and it may also provide data regarding the properties of this connection.

Kilauea is likely to keep erupting from Halema’uma’u Crater episodically and fill up the caldera or part of it. Seeing how the pulses interact with the filling of the caldera will be most interesting.

I plan to continue this article with some others about Kilauea too. See you in the next one!.

901 thoughts on “Kilauea I: Magma waves from the phantom rift

      • somewhat agree with this…. i suggest all the old people first to leave…. Yeah… everyone wants a better world for themselves and ignor the poor. Every male child gets castrated at birth?? Everyone different than me has to leave?? it’s a slippery slope. Whatever You do…. don’t forget the gas chambers.

      • That is wrongly phrased. We don’t ‘get rid’ of people, we try to provide an environment which reduces their ‘R’ value. And it works: birth rates are falling world wide. China is now expected to reach peak population in the next few years, while just two years ago it was expected in the period 2025-2030. Studies indicate that birth rates depend on the education level of women (not of men, interestingly). It explains why some men want to limit women’s right to education. So we should not ‘get rid’ of people, but we should teach them. It is always thus: save the world, become a teacher.

        • The reason why I raise money for teaching girls within UNICEF projects. Raised over £300 since the start of the pandemic selling self seeded plants from my garden.

        • i guess i have no confidence in people not useing evil for their own ends… As a group we are as bad as the worst of us…………………… sadly, not as good as the best of us.

          • There is always hope. What we need to do is not rocket science. (Admittedly I have never been that impressed with rocket science. The science is fine but rockets are not the way to go.) It is doable, affordable, and effective. Yes, there are people kicking and screaming that our children’s future is not their problem. Facebook has made those people far more powerful than before. And still we are making progress, in spite of everything Zuckerberg throws at us. People don’t like change, but that is mostly out of fear. We help people, we encourage people and we train people, so that they have a place in the different world. We have no choice. The world will still change if we don’t.

    • Just came in from a smoke…44C on the deck. Gonna be a scorcher for another few days.

  1. Is the volcano creating the marine layer we are seeing….ie is the massive heat causing the air to rise and thus pulling cooler air off the ocean creating what we know as a marine layer similar to occurrence on CA coast?

    • Do you mean a sea breeze? Or are you referring to the fog/low cloud layer? It seems almost like an inversion layer at times.

    • Interesting question, Bill. The scale is entirely different in California, where hundred of square miles of hot air rise in the interior valleys, pulling cool air in from the coast.

      If this fog is only over this volcano, then maybe. But if it’s over most of the penninsula, then no.

      • The peninsula is small in area and the volcano is not that far from the ocean. The waters around the peninsula I assume are colder than CA waters and the heat release is significant and growing each day. My assumption is that this would pull cooler moist air off the ocean causing fog and yes an inversion layer. I would love to hear thoughts from IMO on this.

  2. ” seems to indicate a flood of lava now at 8 pm. I have only one camera to look at, the fog seems to be blocking a lot of views of the cone, but can someone verify that we’re having lots of lava emitted from the cone?
    Thank you!

  3. 20.12 pm another huge effusion, fountaining all around the vent’s circumference, high fountaining well above the cone walls. Seems to be aperiodicity of about 3-4 minutes.

    • I estimate that it reached more than 50 meters above the rim of the cone. May have been a bit higher as it left the field of view

  4. The overview camera is out of the fog and in business, a good lava flow around the base of Theatre Hill heading for thr western wall exit.

      • Yes, the 20:13:44 gush is spectacular and the spray went really high above the cone. A few more like this and the lava will soon be gushing from the Natthagi Valley

  5. Here is the outburst from a few minutes ago, caught on visir

    • I highly recommend our speciality this evening, the black and gold octopus salad.

    • From the FAF highpass seismic trace, it seems like the last few gushes have increased in amplitude. Have you noticed the same? I am wondering what the 8:40 pm or thereabouts pulse might be?

  6. The FAF highpass seismogram shows the gushing very well now – see
    (if the link does not show up, can some admin fix the URL link?)

    Done. For some reason the direct link to the drumplots is removed by WP. Best to save the image and post that – admin

  7. I am wondering how far away the current fountains can be seen.

  8. Ragnar: “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”

  9. There is a proper surface stream of lava in Meradalir heading east!

  10. I was looking at the new lava thickness maps, and the cone is about 65 metres tall, from the lowest point that the slope changes, to the tallest part of the cone structure. I wonder if that might help sort out how tall these last few fountains have got?

  11. Shorter pulses, that lava is very fluid and the fountains are higher than previously, haven’t seen them that high since the crater got this big.

    It makes me want to go back …….

    • I was counting about 6 min or slightly less intervals. I also agree with you 67doug that it seems more fluid and volume seems to have increased too…..Could hotter lava be arriving?

      • I don’t think it can get much hotter, but it is certainly keeping us entertained and on our toes with all the changes and is fun to watch (Thank you Iceland for your great web cams)

        I for one am enjoying this eruption for many reasons (not harming human life or way of life are top reasons)

  12. If volcanoes were students, this one would be taking “Shield-building 101”.

  13. It looked like the lava field may have reached the newly build Natthagi wall, at least from peering through the haze on the Langi view at 20:41.

    • Volcano Chaser confirmed this to me earlier this evening on a facebook post.

  14. I go away to watch a (total rubbish) TV programme and come back to find the volcano has gone mad.
    Serves me right for abandoning Iceland’s top channel: VolcTV.

    Happy to see we are back in business!

    • Hope you are not watching love island rather than this ? 😀

      • Please – @67Doug. I’d rather watch the Magic Roundabout. 😀
        I was watching a South Korean TV Series called “Memories of the Alhambra”. Very erudite compared to Love Island! 🙂

    • yeah, Clive,, the volcano called up and asked if You were watching and we said No… and it said ok.. serves him right…. Watch this!! so we did….

  15. At the rate it’s going, I can’t see the Visir camera surviving too much longer. Earlier in daylight, the lava looked pretty close.

    • I’ve got that itchy “I really need to move back away from this” feeling just watching the lava approaching! It’s getting perilously close to spilling into my living room…

    • These pulses might be the way you end up with a shield volcano. Normally with lava being so fluid it would just flow out somewhere away from the vent. These pulses however cause a short range overflowing that builds material around the cone making it taller and taller. Shield volcanoes of Iceland have surprisingly steep slopes which makes you wonder why, and this could have happened if they pulsed in the way this eruption is doing.

      So perhaps we should really be calling it a shield already, a very small one, but one that already has a lot in common with previous shields of Iceland, and might be considered as such.

        • That happen does with viscous lavas. While low viscosity lavas will go into tubes and end up tens of kilometres away, even at low rates, see Pu’u’o’o. You need something else to get the steep slopes. Lava fountains work, many brief overflows will also do.

          • We don’t measure the slopes tens of kilometers away. We measure it close to the peak, and that comes from lava that flows on the surface. Overflows, mainly. The other way to do it is how Nyiragongo did it, by building up the cone from the inside, directly from the lava lake.

  16. Occurred to me that with this kind of surge, the lava is spread over a much wider area so it will cool closer to the cone. So we might see that area gain elevation quickly. But for that to happen it would have to keep doing the same thing for more than a few hours, which is the one thing least likely.

    • It definitely has been ramping the flow area pretty good the last little while!


      • I wouldn’t want to be the person in charge of calculating a flow rate right now. Wouldn’t know where to start.

        • It’s not that hard really. Flow rate is calculated by photogrammetry. During a survey overflight, pictures are taken from different angles. These pictures are then combined to make a 3d-model. If you compare the obtained 3d-model with elevation contours from before the eruption, you get the total volume of erupted lava. Flow rate is then computed by taking the difference in volume between two measurements divided by the number of seconds elapsed between the measurements.

          • They use laser ranging, I think. Which needs clear weather and people staying off the lava. Shouldn’t be too hard..

          • If you look at the annotation in the graph, it looks like Riegl Lidar was used for a single point in the beginning of the eruption. All the latest measurements are marked as aircraft photogrammetry. It also says in the text that they use a Hasselblad camera.


          • Scroll further down and they describe four methods they have used.

  17. Watched some video recordings of the recent overflows, it looks like at least a few of them were on the verge of going paroxysmal, where the conduit undergoes deep degassing down to the critical depth in the magma, far below the surface. It is the same physics as a plinian eruption, and the line between them is not defined, especially at extremes like we saw on Etna a few months back.

    The tallest of the recent fountains was easily 150 meters, about double the height of the cone, or even more. If there wasnt a lava lake above the vent I think we would have seen a new record, the conduit isnt going to be a narrow hole like it used to be.

  18. Some wealthy philanthropist needs to donate a FLIR infrared camera to RUV or MBL so we can watch the lava eruptions when it is foggy. IR cuts through fog most of the time.

  19. Leaving for Iceland today for a short stay until sunday, I am open to suggestions for what might be especially interesting to photograph, film or do at the volcano, else I am just gonna go after pretty pictures.


    • It would be really interesting to see some photos showing the lava level in Meradalir near the eastern exit of that valley. There is no camera coverage of that area. The maps show that the lava is quite close to the overflow point, but you can’t tell how much higher the lava has to go.

      • Enjoy, if you have the legs a trip round Meradalir would be interesting, there’s nothing like seeing it for yourself. I don’t know if you will need a clear Covid test to return to your country of origin, but they are cheaper in Iceland than the UK. We spent more on Covid tests than on flights!

      • OK, I am hiking regularly at home in the alps and have proper gear, I already thought of walking around the area, let’s see if I am fit enough and if the weather gets better. Covid tests are free in Austria, and I am fully vaccinated, so this should not be a problem.

    • Lucky you! It should be great. If possible I would love to see a pic of where it all started on the 19th March 2021- that is a pic of the actual spot! Happy with whatever takes your fancy.

    • I’m with David JG. A pic from where the original RUV cam was when the eruption began or as close as possible, please and thank you. I have a photo of it before the eruption. It would be amazing to compare them.

    • Can you take a big stick and move the bum camera up so we don’t have to see bums anymore ?


      • I would not recommend the combination of bums and a big stick. There are legal limitations on this.

    • Forgot to say, I really hope you get the weather. Good luck!

    • I would love to see more of what is going on in Meradalir and the neighbouring valley.

  20. The problem is carbon emissions. Getting rid of population, besides being criminal and unethical does not address directly the problem. Yes we need to keep population stable, especially in Africa and parts of Asia. But we need to:

    Stop coal (as number one problem) and switch to carbon neutral electricity production (solution number 1) while at same time reducing consumption too; this involves forcing those 15 biggest world corporations that produce electricity and fuel. China and US are key players here, as well as emerging economies.

    We need to tackle deforestation caused by mostly animal farming (number two problem) by making some sort of deal with farmers to switch to forestry and a switch from animal diets to more plant diets (I am not saying eating no eat but far less meat); this is a more difficult challenge as it involves changing the use of vast areas of land where about a billion people work. Agroforestry would be another possibility, whilst keeping a mindfulness to restore loss biodiversity. Not sure how to achieve all of this.

    Problem 3 (and ranking after in carbon emissions) is industry. We need it to also adopt more carbon neutral behaviours. We need also a global deal on this.

    Problem 4 is fossils fuel car ownership. As electric cars are also detrimental to the planet I think electric car sharing renting schemes is best in cities. It would be also cheaper for people.

    In the UK there is a proposal called Zero Carbon Britain which shows how to achieve all of this, using very concrete and doable steps.

    • It is amazing how much can be done by just tackling the issue of cattle. Yes, we will need to wean ourselves of a dependency on meat and milk. If that can be done, the problem of overpopulation also goes away.

      • We will live in pods.
        We will eat bugs.
        We will own nothing.
        And we’ll be happy.

        (Meanwhile the elites will carry on as usual. Do you think they’ll give up steak?)

      • The cattle issue is a bit of a red herring.
        No cattle = no grass = all arable = no bats, bees, birds etc etc.
        Grassland is a massive feeding trough for wildlife with (its said) 10x mass or arthropods underground than cattle above it.

        • It isn’t a red herring.. Close to half all carbon in animals (including us, insects, etc but excluding plants and trees) is currently in cattle. The remainder is mostly in humans. Only 5% of all animal carbon is in wild animals. It illustrates the pressure it puts on the environment. Remove the cattle, and the biomass of the animal kingdom can increase tenfold. Or, it has reduced tenfold over the past years without anyone paying attention. The rain forest is being removed not for us, but for our cattle. I am not saying cattle farming should end. But it should live within its means and those means are much less than our demands. Our demands need to change.

          38% of all habitable land surface is used for livestock. In the US, meat and dairy accounts for only 17% of our calorie intake, but red meat alone accounts for 88% of agricultural land and 84% of agricultural greenhouse gas emission. Red meat also accounts for half of all water usage for farming but that is less of a constraint.

          Dairy farming in itself has a much lower footprint. And even red meat could have dramatically less impact of cows could be fed on seaweed.

    • 1 fossil fuel car over its lifetime has the cumulative emissions of at least 300 electric cars. It is true extraction processes for raw materials to make EVs can be carbon intensive but those exact same processes are also used in other indistries. That and most if not all of the companies taking EVs seriously are looking at making them autonomous. Of course Tesla comes to mind being the only one with real world data but in 20 years it will be standard, one way or another.

      Except in Australia, where our politicians are stuck 50 years ago, I am actually personally very happy we are not a serious player on the world stage because it would be a disaster if we were.

        • An EV only has post production CO2 emissions, or emissions at all actually, if its electricity source is generated by something that has emissions. That is not a certainty already and is going to decline further with time. Once you make a combustion engine car you need to keep giving it fuel, that is where the insane figures come from. I have not directly measured, so the number could be exaggerated, but it is not important in any case.

      • Currently in the UK every electric car is powered by gas power stations at twice the CO2 production as a small modern diesel which manages over 40% efficiency.
        regularly and stop believing the hype.
        IMHO Petrol to diesel was a ploy to make us scrap petrol cars and buy diesel cars.
        IMHO Electric is a ploy to make us scrap diesel cars and buy electric cars.Who gains, car manufacturers because a modern diesel can easily last 20 years.

        • That’s what worries me about the push for electric cars.
          There are certainly use cases for them but I would like to see honest statistics that fully account for where the power actually comes from (rather than dreaming where we would like it to come from).
          And also a serious look at the environmental cost of the production of the electric vehicle particularly the battery (and the rather short lifetime of same with their own recycling burden).

          Otherwise this is a is a distraction from the current main event and we should always make sure the main event is the main event.

          • Every marginal electrical kWh comes from gas.
            Efficiency at power station circa 44%, the the following efficiencies,
            grid transmission (98%)
            local transmission (92%)
            Charger (95%)
            Battery (85%)
            Pulse mode inverter (90%)
            Electric motor (90%)
            These real life figs, not best possible under controlled conditions.
            The losses for oil and gas are all surprisingly low in % terms.

          • But an electric engine is 2-3 times more efficient than a petrol one. You are including the loss at the power station but not the same loss in the petrol engine. The numbers I have give that electric cars have twice the well to wheel efficiency of fossil fuel cars. That is for the US where car engines are famously inefficient, and the difference won’t be as bad in countries with more modern engines. The best is of course to run the electric car on solar or wind, since heat is a poor way to produce electricity, but even in the current state of affairs the electric car is at least as efficient as a petrol one. They are not quite there yet: we need massive improvements especially for the batteries. But that should be doable.

          • Albert.
            I include power losses for a manual gearbox and powertrain for a diesel.. These are VERY low for mechanical systems.
            A 90% efficiency (real life) is about right on average for a variable frequency electric motor. The modern small diesel is approaching 50% (in fact seeing some of the latest figures they may exceed this) at the flywheel.
            Remember the combustion temp is circa 1400C in the cylinder and about 300C at the exhaust so the theoretical max efficiency is surprisingly high.. Thermodynamics rules OK!
            Look, I was pushing for CO2 reductions in the 1970’s, nobody did anything, no nuclear power plants and precious little else except house insulation. I am absolutely all for a coherent plan, because in my opinion once the ice goes things will ratchet up fast (the methane clathrates in the teratonnes).
            Currently nobody has a workable coherent plan, because its politically unacceptable. The result is faked figures wishful thinking and platitudes.

          • The one thing everyone agrees on is the need to read David Mackay first…( Things have moved on since his book but it is still the non-nonsense contribution on the topic. Be realistic, think big, and aim for energy saving wherever possible. And don’t use electricity to produce heat..

          • Albert. Absolutely.
            David Mckay started me off on this.
            I even have his book in hard cover.
            Sadly even he rather hoped he was wrong, particularly with regard to future tech.
            The problem is not with tech, not with corporations, its with US (you, me, everybody).
            We want (even demand) a nice lifestyle that is basically incompatible with stopping global warming. This planet can work quite well with a population of 1B.

          • Absent an inexhaustible supply of cleanly generated electric energy and a charging rate similar to the time required to fill a tank with petrol or diesel you can shelve all the lofty plans. The darling advocates are NOT going to give up the battery powered toys they line up to purchase days before release. They want someone else to stand on line in the cold for stale bread.

          • Somethings do require government policy to steer. It is too early to force electric vehicles on the consumer but it is getting late to force companies to develop them. I recall how car companies claimed that 30 mpg was the best that was economically feasible for a car. The EU forced the issue by mandating improvements. Then it turned out it was perfectly feasible but no company wanted to be the first one to do it. The next time the EU forced improvements, the companies managed to hijack the testing regime and cheated. Massive improvements are still possible on transport. Just need to force them to happen.

            Didn’t the same thing happen with CFCs? Companies denying their effect on the ozone layer, then stating there were no replacements. Companies need to be forced into the future.

          • Albert.
            Massive improvements in transport are not possible except by reducing human transport (planes, trains cars), and do checkout that iamkate website for the FACT that ~50% of our electricity (let alone total power) comes from fossil fuels so switching to electric isn’t really an option but a con.. The laws of the universe rule and there are maximum efficiencies which we need to get closer to (eg why is combined gas only ~45%?) but ultimately china india et al will crush anything we do. We are never going carbon neutral, best we prepare for global warming and the time is now.
            New cities above the 50m mark as a start, no nuclear under 70m either, then there are river crossings and food supplies to consider. etc etc.

          • I disagree and agree. Yes, we should prepare for global heating, both for temperatures (e.g. spread of tropical diseases) and sea level rise (we need to decide what to protect and what to abandon). But transport really can do much better. There is a major improvement possible by doing away with the driver. Communicating cars can remove much of turbulence of traffic. The next step is by removing the cars. Why own a car when you can just book a self-driving one? And why does a car need an engine? It is far too heavy to carry with you everywhere. The engine and fuel should be elsewhere and a car should be propelled externally. Why can’t we do something useful with all those roads? It is a waste of space. They mainly capture heat (who decided to make them black??), so why not cover with solar panels? Why are cars getting heavier and heavier? If you need to get the most speed out of the least energy, going heavier is not helpful.

            We get some tens of percent of electricity out of solar and wind. To increase that, the best way is to decrease the total usage. The move away from fossil fuels begins with energy efficiency.

            China is on the same path we are. It is at the start of a population decrease – some reports suggests the population is already decreasing after a collapse in birth rate in the last 2 years. Air quality in Beijing has improved dramatically since 2016 (my students there tell me). It is a funny place where local authorities act with considerable independence from the centre, and this is causing problems in implementing changes. But that is true in many countries, including the US. India is a long way behind and has a government poorly equipped to deal with global heating. That is a concern. There are other governments with inaction as their main policy. The UK has a chaotic government with different departments having opposite agendas. The amazing thing is that with such governance , the world is still making progress.

            Africa will be the flashpoint. Things there could still go either way. The rest of the world is at least moving in the right direction.

            I do agree that there is a lot of hot air in the planning. It will get flushed out.

          • Albert, I agree.
            Taxation on cars should be penal unless its a small (say 750cc, 1000cc for a family) ultra-efficient diesel with a governed max speed of 70mph. In towns a micro-car (electric) range max 30 miles, top speed 30mph. There, I just cut domestic fuel consumption by 50%.
            I also lost several elections.
            I completely agree re (shared) self driving cars, all with cctv and all users must use their credit card.
            All roofs should be painted white (TiO2 is also good at destroying particulates and organic vapours).
            No food should be transported by air, get used to frozen/tinned out of season.
            That lost some more elections.
            China will not back off on coal power (its only indigenous energy) but will claim to do so.

          • Ha! I’d vote for you .. although admittedly we drive a people carrier because we have a lot of people to carry.. one-car family though.

            Uh.. I might vote for you – what else is on your manifesto?

        • Combustion cars cant get 40% efficiency. A combustion engine can get above that (just) but only if it is used as a direct power source, there is a lot of energy lost in the drive transmission because nothing is fully rigid, steel is heavy, and there is a lot of friction. Driving a Tesla 1000 km on electricity made from a diesel generator will use less diesel than driving a diesel powered ICE car 1000 km, it is also why diesel trains are actually electric vehicles that replace a large battery with a diesel generator system because of energy density, which is also a gap that is narrowing and will one day not exist either. It is a bit better at larger scales but still, electric vehicles are ridiculously more efficient than anything mechanical, it is not an open discussion this has been known for well over a century.

          Batteries also last a long time, longer than a combustion engine can be expected to last without maintainence, and there are already recycling processes that are still waiting for existing batteries put in cars a decade ago let alone ones built today. Really with all due respect to both of you all the arguments presented sound a lot like ‘its new we cant trust it yet’ rather than a real argument on why we shouldnt do it.

        • Chad.
          Learn some physics and thermodynamics, what you claim is urban myth.
          It would be nice if it was true, it would be more politically correct.
          Check my figures.
          Modern diesels are circa 50% and the theoretical max is (from memory) about 80%, but they will never get close to that.

          • It isnt a myth if everyone except you believes it, what you say is not incorrect about diesel generators but it is not the same in cars, mechanical friction and losses are not low as to be negligible. I recall you claiming this in the past too it is just not true. It is better at a larger scale, but in a car the losses are significant, the only reason we still build cars this way is out of tradition.

            another way to put it, why can a tesla model s drive just as far as a diesel car in the same when its energy source has 40x lower volumetric energy density…

          • Here is a recent (2020) plot on tank-to-wheel efficiency of electric, diesel and petrol cars and vans, running at a fraction p of the maximum engine power. Note that this does not include losses in the generation of the electricity, however it also not include costs in producing the petrol/diesel and transporting it to the petrol station

    • Its doable, but only by restricting lifestyles considerably. Its US (you me everyone) that is the cause of the CO2, everything else is done to provide our needs. Oil companies only produce what we use, use more they produce more, use less they produce less. Here is what we need to do, and its not going to happen, unless we stop putting our heads in the sand.
      Just for fun I did the sums, it makes bad reading and shows why the UK (or any other country) is never going carbon neutral despite the fine words.
      All per annum:
      UK total energy usage 1660 TWh (2018)
      Average Nuclear plant 6 TWh
      Number of plants for carbon-free=286
      Windfarm (scot) per 100sq km 1.46 TWh
      % of UK area in windfarms required= 47%
      [Scotland is windier than North sea]
      PV per 100 sq km 4.2TWh
      % of UK covered in PV required= 16%.
      This really isn’t going to happen. Even worse is that Wind and PV need huge storage to achieve this, wind for 60 days, PV for 6 months due to variability of supply.
      Electric vehicles are much less efficient so we need a lot more energy produced to cover this as well.
      Welcome to global warming.

      UK total energy usage 1660 TWh/year needs
      200 french sized (big) nuclear plants or
      47% of the entire UK under windfarms or
      16% of the entire UK under PV cells
      This really isn’t going to happen. Even worse is that Wind and PV need huge storage to achieve this, wind for 60 days, PV for 6 months due to variability of supply.
      Welcome to global warming.
      Nissan leaf has a 40kWh battery (which I believe weighs just under 1/2T). So for 1TWh you need 25 million leaf batteries. If we use 1660TWh/year that’s 140TWh/month you will need 3500 million leaf batteries weighing 1800 million tons.
      North sea windfarms produce 3kWh/sq m in blocks with 10% spacing (to prevent windbreaks). So the 1660TWh needs 55,000 sq km of farms spread over 550,000 sq km. This is most of the North Sea, and will be a tad costly.

      • This is all highly political stuff (not your particular comment, the topic in general), I’m much more comfortable discussing volcanos here – but the cameras are all fogged out.

        The trouble is that the elites running most Western societies say one thing and do another. Our UK governments talk a green game but are allowing massive housebuilding on green fields (Britain cannot produce all its own food, and our lovely countryside is being destroyed) all over the UK, all powered by gas*. In America, Obama fretted about sea level rises then bought an expensive seafront estate. Over here seaside property is the most expensive.

        Furthermore a lot of this is out of our hands. Between 2016 and 2020, China built coal fired power stations equal in capacity to four times UK electricity consumption. How can we stop this? We can’t, short of forbidding Chinese exports and enforcing that with military blockade of all their ports, which isn’t going to happen. We’ve already reduced “our” emissions by shutting our factories and exporting manufacturing to China.

        Meanwhile in the UK we are importing coking coal to make steel, and green activists are campaigning against a new coking coal mine in Cumbria. You can’t make steel without the stuff – are we just going to shut down steel making or carry on importing? Madness.

        * there is a plan that by 2025 all new properties must be powered by heat pumps, which because of the tiny garden sizes will need vertical pipes drilled hundreds of feet. I don’t think there are enough rigs and geologists in the UK!

        • You have the situation in one.
          Worse they are mostly talking air-heat pumps. Unfortunately (and I have designed and built a few commercial heat pumps) the only way to make it work using expensive electricity (which still comes from burning gas) is a warm air system and that goes bady if the weather is cold. Basically (similarly to electric cars calculation) you need to beat 3X efficiency to break even, and in practice this is very hard to do. The thing everyone forgets is there are two (or three) heat exchangers to consider, and they will have 5C+ temp differentials. The ones being installed (using hot water underfloor) are
          air->refrigerant->water->air. It just doesn’t work as the efficiency is critically dependent on the delta-T.

      • You are making assumptions that are very favourable to diesel. You say 40% efficiency. Yes that is the maximum but the average is more like 25%. Also you assume all electric cars are going to be powered by electricity generated by burning gas. Clearly this is incorrect as many cars will be charged at night using renewables/nuclear. You assume 6 months worth of electrical storage capacity needed, why? I could go on but won’t.

        • I like the fact that you are including nuclear in the mix – that’s the sensible part of your proposal.

          Renewables simply aren’t going to make it unless nuclear is part of the mix.
          There is a real lack of understanding of the scale and reliability of power generation to match the energy density available from fossil fuels. This isn’t even considering the freight aspect which is a non-starter for anything longer than short hops (unless you put in a fully electrified rail infrastructure, or provide catenaries on the motorways).

          Its a real shame this issue is not more widely discussed rather than what are rather pie in the sky statements about renewables and the hope that battery technology with usable energy densities “are just round the corner”.

          One thing I learnt a long time ago when I studied engineering is that its always incremental steps and beware of the pitfalls of new technologies. There are always hidden costs and pitfalls when new things are tried.

          If you think I’m being too pessimistic consider that only last week Californians were asked to go easy on charging their cars overnight as their grid couldn’t cope with it.

        • Just curious how cars will recharge at night using renewables? No solar at night, wind often dies down at night. I agree on nuclear, so why not more nuclear?

          • Its politically incorrect and Not Green, its therefore not to be considered.
            To be truthful 200 big power stations for the UK is 7 per county. That means one in sight of pretty well everyone. Its never going to happen and to be honest the chance of an accident would be perhaps 1~100 years, not insignificant.

          • Please state your source for saying that winds die down at night. Around the UK they don’t.

        • You need to understand marginal electricity generation.
          The 40% (actually ~42+%) is a modern diesel with pollution controls and switch off when stationary etc.
          Look, I care not a jot as I will be dead before there is a big problem.
          JUST DO THE SUMS.
          The laws of the universe WILL WIN.

          • I enjoyed reading your comment Farmeroz. I don’t care about politics, I care about data and decisions that promote our safety and well being in the upcoming decades.

            We need to tackle the issue and it is seemingly impossible as far as I look at it.

            Therefore I would predict the collapse of our civilization at some point in the future. As a father this has serious implications because obviously I do care about the future.

            I can’t see the world becoming suddenly more vegetarian or fulfilling those energy needs (no way the UK would cover half of its land with wind farms).

            I assume your numbers are correct. I will check and investigate them now.

            All of this is madness, isn’t it?

  21. Gosh – talk about fog. It’s a right pea-souper on the Reykjanes Peninsula right now.

      • Winter is going to be dull, dull, dull. Very short daylight hours and more fog. Let’s hope for plenty of effusive behaviour to view at night.

    • Low down on Theatre hill. It is occasionally visible on the Langi camera

  22. Are the Civil Defence creating a new, second dam / barrier in Natthagi? The diggers (and Associated Management Centre!) have moved closer to the camera.

    • The fog lifted briefly in the Visir cam to show lava is still pouring out of the vent. I assume it is still pulsing.

      • The tremor graphs and drumplots suggest that the output is continuous and has been so since around 5 this morning.

      • It almost looks as if they’re building a second wall behind the first, seems unlikely. Lots of vehicles there – and what are the two obelisk-like things at either end of the dam?

        • I think they are digging a trench. If the lava comes over the wall, they will be waiting for it.

  23. On the Visir camera, momentary breaks in the fog show slow oozing of lava from the cauldron. Nothing like last night. That lava has now all crusted over.

    • Borgafjell is opposite Langihryggur and is the left side of the hills looking up Naghatti towards the vent – on the west of the valley.
      They originally placed the cam near the entrance path to Nathaggi where it overlooked the path.
      But it would appear they moved it to a spot where no-one can find it or guess what it is looking at. The bad weather doesn’t help!

  24. Is there a big chunk missing from the right side of the cone? (As now sometimes viewable on the Visir camera)

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