Kilauea – Slump or Slide?

Lava flow from previously in the week. Photography by Paradise Helicopters.

As I have perused the internet in the last few days I have noticed that the “gargantuan landslide causing a mega-tsunami” meme is in full swing again, now in relation to Kilauea. Therefore, I think it is time to write a more laidback article about what is happening in that regard with Kilauea.

But before that I think we could do with a brief update on what is happening at Kilauea.


Road being destroyed by eruption.

As some might remember I jokingly said that the most likely time for the sinking lava in the caldera to hit the watertable was at 10.14 CET today Sunday. It was based on the known rate of ascension and the depth estimated by the USGS of the watertable.

So far, the amount of visible steam has increased, but not enough for it to be a done thing. It is though in the making. After that it is just a waiting game for rockslides to cause ash explosions.

As long as you are not around you are not in any grave danger. But, if you are down wind and there is ash in the air you can if you wish wear a particle filter to avoid getting ash into your lungs. Do note, if you are planning to be in an area with a lot of gas, go for an acid gas classed filter.

Or, if you can’t get hold of that, make a simple mask of five layers of gauze that you keep damp. The moisture will catch the sulphuric gases turning them into sulphuric acid. Best is though always to be upwind of both ash and gas (if possible). It is a neat and cheap trick that I learned about in Indonesia.

To reiterate, ashy detonations in the caldera will not be a danger to life and limb, and there will not be a pyroclastic flow. This is not that type of volcano.

The tiltmeters have started to flatline. This is a sign that the temporarily low pressure in the dyke has started to go up. This was bound to happen from the inflowing magma. This may mean that the vents around Leilani Estates could have a longer duration and erupt more lava.

The vents at Leilani seems to have started to migrate further east sparing houses and homes of the locals. As I am writing this we have come up to 17 confirmed vents. I do suspect that there will be more vents opening up in the next few days. Or, one will open up and stabilize as a more permanent fixture. With a bit of luck such a vent will be away from the houses.

And just to clarify things, this is a very small eruptive phase in relation to what Kilauea can sometimes do, and at this point there are no signs that this will turn into a major eruptive phase.

Slump or slide?

Slump deformation map, aftermath of the M7.1 earthquake. Showing 0.5 of top movement and 2.5 metres of bottom flank deformation.

In my latest article I wrote about gravity and it’s affect on volcanoes. Because, the simple truth is that what comes up, must always come down. The question is more about when, and in what manner, it will come down.

There are a lot of factors that will decide when, at what speed, and in what manner. I will try to go through at least the most important of those factors below, but first we have to go through the 3 most common types of mountain movement that affects volcanoes.

This was not widely discussed before around the year 2005. Then slides around volcanoes became sort of a fashion thing with geologists. As usual the hysterical English tabloid press got hold of it, and we became inundated by magnitude 69 earthquakes causing 1000 meter high tsunamis of doom as entire continents fall out into the ocean. We are still mopping up things after this PR-slidemageddon.

So, let us instead look at things calmly. What is what, and specifically, what is Kilauea doing? Before that I will though go public with the following public service announcement: If your greatest wish in life is to stand on a surf-board and do the largest possible rock-slide surf, Kilauea is not your best bet.

The slide – This is when a volcano (or mountain), due to the effects of gravity (or magmatic intrusions), develops faultlines and a portion of the mountain rapidly slides down and outwards.

The slump – This is when instead of rapidly sliding downwards, a portion is slowly gliding down and outwards. This gentle meandering of a mountainside happens at speeds measured in centimetres to metres per year.

The hybrid – This is when smaller portions rapidly slide off as a large portion of a mountain is gently slumping downwards.

I will now go through 4 factors that apply to how a mountain will behave as it is galumphing downwards. These are gradient, rock-or-rubble, fault-layout and buttressing.

Gradient – or in other words, how steep the edifice of the volcano is. The general rule here is that the steeper the edifice is, the more likely it is to catastrophically fail. A tall and steep strato-volcano is far more likely to slide than a gently sloping shield-volcano like Kilauea.

The grade needed for a mountain to start sliding depends on a lot of factors and is hard to calculate. And sometimes a volcano can happily be stable at let us say a 45-degree angle but will become extremely unstable at say 48 degrees. If such a volcano inflates rapidly from intruding magma it can fail, say hello to Mount Saint Helens.

Kilauea is a gently sloping shield volcano above the surface. It is steeper below sea level, but not so much so that it is prone at this geologic point in time to fail rapidly.

Post flank-collapse image taken from Acatenango overlooking Fuego in Guatemala. The visible flank collapse scar is the remnants from a flank collapse that slid all the way out into the Pacific Ocean 80km away. If one look carefully one will see that part of the mountain is over-burdened and prone for another collapse.

Rock-or-rubble – the type and constituency of the rock in the volcano also plays a significant role in how it will be moving about. These lava layers are far more stable than ash, lapilli and pumice. Kilauea is predominantly erupting lava in thick stable flows.

Below the ocean level it tends to produce pillow-lavas in the shape of big round balls. These are not as stable as lava layers, but deeper into the mountain these balls are welded together by lava, and then pillow lava turns stable.

Strato-volcanoes like for instance Fuego in Guatemala, or Hekla in Iceland, produce far more ash, pumice, lapilli and lava-bombs than Kilauea ever will. In these cases, you end up with volcanoes that are loose rubble piles made up of what feels like ball-bearings (at least if you try to walk up them). To compound things, this ball-bearings are produced by strato-volcanoes and not shield-volcanoes, and as you now know, strato-volcanoes are also far steeper.

To sum it up, Kilauea is a gently sloping thick-lava-layered volcano. Not many points on the slideometer so far.

Fault-layout – This is where Kilauea actually get a few points. It does have a fault system of a type associated with movement in volcanoes and mountains. But, here it grows boring once again. The angles of the faults are not in angles conducive to rapid large movements.

Instead they are of a type associated with slow down and outwards movement. At strato-volcanoes like Fuego you get steep faults forming prior to flank-failure. And there is nothing like that here.

I should also here point out that there is no risk that Kilauea will go and do something as boisterous as the Mount Saint Helens flank-collapse. Kilauea is just to gently angled and too big for that to be possible. It would require hundreds of cubic kilometres of rapidly intruding magma for it to happen, and that will never happen since Kilauea is leaking lava like a sieve all over the place.

So, that leaves us with Kilauea having gotten a few points on the slow slumpometer.

Buttressing – this is any force or matter that will hold back, or slow down, a slide or a slump. In Kilauea’s case there are at least 3 things buttressing the volcano.

First, we have Mauna Loa, it is holding the north flank of Kilauea in check. So much so that the slumping of Mauna Loa’s 75 000 cubic kilometres of rock is slowly pushing the entire Kilauea towards the ocean. So, the north side will not go anywhere.

On the other side we have a rather big seamount called Loihi. It is the next volcano growing in the chain, and even if it is not of Kilauea’s size, it is big enough to create a resisting force for the bottom of the south flank. In other words, it slows things down.

The third thing has a smaller, but in many ways more profound effect, and that is water. The Pacific Ocean packs a lot of mass. And that mass equals a rather sturdy brake on things trying to move fast.

Now many people will shake their heads and say that water is flexible. Yes, it is, but it will still work as a brake. We know this very well from historical data. 20 000 years ago, the ocean level was far lower due to the water being pent up in the continental glaciers of the ice age. It is around this time we have most of the large slides at volcanic islands around the world.

So, Kilauea is quite high on the buttressometer.


Bad day to be a road. Photograph from Paradise Helicopters.

By now our aspiring slide-surfer is crying into his can of board-wax as he realises that he will have to go and find a better volcano to surf down.

Parts of Kilauea is slowly slumping down into the ocean, but at such a sedate and majestic pace that even houses close to the ocean will remain above water for quite some time.

Small parts will now and then break off at a more rapid pace, but this is mostly lava edges that grow steep cliff faces as lava pours down into the ocean. Last time this happened was during the ocean-entry phase of the 61g lava-flow.

Now and then there will be earthquakes, but that is the nature of things. Those earthquakes will not be so bad that they will kill a lot of people, if the houses are built to cope. And now and then lava will come up out of the ground along the rift zones of Kilauea.

But what will not happen is that there will be a large slide and a big tsunami, regardless of what the English tabloids write.


251 thoughts on “Kilauea – Slump or Slide?

  1. I guess that this time it will end up with me being sued by the Daily Fail for being to relaxed… Surf’s up Dude!

  2. Fissure 18 Is opening up check Ikaika Marzo FB
    Looks like the dyke will keep growing.
    The gases from earlier fissures are choking the whole area and turning the rainforest brown as it dies

    • just watched Ikaika Marzo’s coverage of Fissure 18 and it’s spectacular… don’t miss it…. Thanks, Jesper… Best!motsfo

  3. Agree. There have been very large slides from the Hawaii islands, but at a rate of perhaps once per 100,000 years. No worries, and no signs anywhere that say otherwise. The south flank regularly has slow-slip events and those take out the build-up stress.

    But the lava benches that build up on the coast are unstable and liable to collapse. That is a lot more common. A micro-collapse can still be a killer if you happen to stand on the sliver that is no longer there.

  4. If the fissures stabilise here then there wont be a lot of damage, if they keep going they could endanger kapoho (again) and if they go back uprift then leilani is going to be hit again. At the spot where fissures 16-18 are there is not very much between them and the ocean so this would I guess be the preferred location, either that or possibly an eruption underwater but that might not be a common event if the quite steep drop just off cape kumukahi is any indication ( the puna ridge is 400 meters deep even only a few km out, based on google earth measurements). It seems that kilauea likes to erupt on land if it can.

    Looks like this one might be a bit bigger than the others too.

  5. Thanks, Carl, for a calm head. It helps to know stuff….. Friday my son called from Anchorage saying there had been a tsunami warning for the whole west coast of the US and Alaska… No, i told him… i’m actually looking at the earthquakes and there is NOTHING that can cause a tsunami for that area…. NOTHING. It had been an error message sent out by mistake…. didn’t help that we had had a 5+ in Tuala Bay. (but did he believe me?? no…. kids never listen to their parents even when they are almost 50.) Happy Mother’s Day, btw 😉 Best!motsfo

    • That’s partly due to a certain person not from the Netherlands spinning the coincidence of the 2011 Pu’u O’o collapse and the M9 in Japan, claiming this collapse means Cascadia is going to unzip within a week- obviously that didn’t happen! lol

      • I have a small portable fridge that is barely toaster-sized. It is perfect for chilling 4 bottles of nice Belgian Trappist beers.

    • Hopefully, the summer interns are responsible, but a copy editor should have caught this.

      • “Spew” seems to be the tabloid favoured word for volcanoes these days. Sad what they are teaching the kids employed in newspapers… Spewing refrigerators kind of reminds me of a bad night out on the beer and curry.

  6. Hahahaha !! Maybe the printer had a bug in it : ) never heard about a fridgecano before

  7. I am curious as to what part lava tubes would play on the structure of Kilauea. By that I am asking if the volcano is honeycombed with vacant spaces or are these tubes filled as the next wave of erupted lava covers the old? Then too is the structural strength of the volcano affected by intrusions of lava into these tubes or for that matter, is the mass of the volcano a really a homogenous mass or bits and pieces that are welded? I suspect that the structural integrity would be affected either way.
    thx Harley

    Welcome in!

    • Good set of questions Harley!

      I will try to answer as well as I can.
      The lava tubes will not affect the structure that much. There is a difference between old lava tubes (that mostly are empty) and dyke intrusions. The latter are rarely, if ever, empty. The dykes will though solidify over time and turn into rock.
      A volcano can be affected by intrusions of lava. If it weakens or strengthens the volcano is very much a question about where on the volcano it happens, and which volcano it is. Kilauea is to large to be greatly affected either way.
      No volcano is a homogenous mass. It can though vary greatly from volcano to volcano how solid it is, or not at all. Kilauea is in the high solid range due to the layering of lava flows. A strato volcano like Fuego is basically a rubble pile of differently sized rocks, with just a few flows. Fuego is high on the loose rubble scale of things.

      I hope this helped a bit. Just remember that every single volcano on the planet is different.

  8. Thx Carl.
    I have often wondered what happens to lava tubes after an eruption. I know that they have tubes in other places, Aukland for one, I just assumed that they filled through skylights and disappeared especially in a volcano as active as this one. I think I see why outbreaks can happen here. I assume that in an upset condition that the existing lava tubes could reactivate. Are the cracks in Leilani in your opinion fed by existing tubes?

    • During flows at Kilauea the lava tubes can be filled in. Or just covered with a new layer leaving a void that as the centuries go by get crushed by the weight from above as more and more layers stack on top of each other.

      No, this is not old lava tube systems. This is a rift zone. That is an area where a volcano, or a continent is being pulled apart. That creates natural weaknesses that a volcano can utilize as “transport routes” for magma. These conduits are forming at depth and are called dykes.

    • Tubes are round, very shallow (only just underground) and small. Dikes are deeper, and are vertical sheets 1-2 meters wide, 500 meters tall and can go on for tens of kilometers. Dikes are the main means of magma transport, underground. Lava tubes form out of erupting lava (there is a clue in the name: they are not called magma tubes for a reason). Leilani is fed by a deeper dike, where the gas (and now perhaps, finally, magma) percolates up from the top of the underground dike. Many of the recent earthquakes will have been caused the pressure of the gas trying to escape.

    • There are a number of lava tubes you can visit, and they are worth it. The best I have seen is a commercial one in Lanzarote and there is free one in Las Canadas in Tenerife, which sadly I didn’t know about when I visited. You are advised to take a torch!

  9. I have a question: Could the possible eruption of Kīlauea (when the magma and the water table interact) send a pressure/shockwave trough the dike causing increased activity in the new fissures? Or will the opposite/nothing happen?

    Thanks to everyone on this forum for all the great updates and interesting discussions, this is the best website by far for following volcanic activity!!

    Rescued from the Dungeon of Akismet, future comments should post without further problems

    • Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
      So, yes in a way. The same amount of energy would travel down the conduit as would travel up.
      But, here is where it pretty much ends. The amount of mass to move in a conduit is by several orders of magnitude larger in the conduit than what will be blasting upwards, so the energy will be severely diluted. Think of a canon, the projectil ways comparatively little compared to the canon, so it will travel far. The canon that ways a lot more will just move a few inches.

      • Now I got some questions. In the search for oil the prospecters uses explosives and seismographs to map out the underground. Has similar methods been used to map out the innards of volcanos?
        I realize there’s big difficulties, earthquakes, noice and rumble from moving lava, and for sure unknown structures that distort the waves in all sorts of waves. But surely it must have been tried?

        Rescued from the clutches of akismet!

    • I can’t really say. I don’t know how the magma in the conduit and dike will respond. It probably has a lot to do with the size of the impulse and the shape of the shock front waveform. At anything less than the speed of sound in magma, it won’t be an explosive style pressure wave. (less capable of fracturing rock){Brisance}

      In other readings, I have seen the speed of sound in magma stated as anywhere from 10 m/s for degassed shallow magma, to 2500 m/s for deep un-degassed magma.

      Magma acoustics and time-varying melt properties at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica” Garces et al (1998)
      GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 25, NO.13, PAGES 2293-2296, JULY 1, 1998

      • Welcome to volcanocafé Mark, where you get both the simplified answer, and the more complex answer (complete with reference), at the same time.
        Learning about volcanoes take time, stick around and you will get the hang of it. 🙂

        • You should have seen how long it took me to verify the correct spelling of “Brisance.” I first learned about it while studying the characteristics of TATP. An explosive of choice in the Middle Eastern IEDs before the Gulf Wars. Not overly difficult to make, but just as spooky as Mercury Fulminate when it gets dryer. Which of course, leads to some really hilarious mishaps on the part of terrorists. “Hoisted by his own petard” comes to mind.

          Another issue, is that Hydrogen Peroxide becomes quite reactive with metals at the concentrations that are needed in the formulation. (Hello Kursk mishap → Leaking peroxide in a torpedo fuel system initiated the disaster by most tellings of the incident)

          Just for reference, TATP has a detonation velocity of 5300 m/s. Pretty close to TNT {6900 m/s}.

          • And for all the new readers…

            We tend to ramble out into more arcane fields of knowledge in the comment field.
            Especially when things become a bit slow on the volcanic front.
            But do not be confused if some of us make a rather spectacular mental meandering all of a sudden. Just go with the flow.

            I should probably also point out that we pretty much only have one rule: “Be nice”. It should be pretty self-explanatory.

          • Yep. Also note that explosives are NOT my specialty. My knowledge comes from doing threat briefings. My main training is in another field (RF). So, if you think you can cobble together a batch of TATP based on my info, make sure your life insurance policy is up to date first. Your beneficiaries will probably wind up cashing it in.

            And… Peroxide that you get in the store is less that 5% concentration and quite safe in comparison to High concentration peroxide.

        • Thank you both for your answers, this is such a interesting event, I will definitely stick around!!

    • I think that is alike of throwing a bomb in the Donau. And expect it to cause avalances in the mountains it sprung from.

    • Phreatic explosions are surface events, and the shock wave travels into the atmosphere (apparently carrying fridges with it. Alway wondered why steam explosions shower cold ash.) So no, Kilauea won’t do it. But if you were to set off an explosion in the magma underground, things are different. Magma is incompressible, so you get an enormous pressure spike traveling down the dike at the speed of sound. On a very small scale, this is how dikes extend. When a small crack appears at the tip of a dike. pressure suddenly drops and this causes gas to come out of the magma. Gas expands a thousand fold, so it is a kind of mini explosion. That explosion creates a deeper crack, etc. It is the same effect (cavitation) that destroys ship propellors over time.

      • I also heard they would be the size of cows. I guess they think we don’t have refrigerators around here. 🙂

        PS. I do live next to a cattle farm.

      • Ah, neat. I wondered why dikes have the form they have but this is quite a neat extra mechanism. Travelling at speed, with enough flow of gassy lava, this could be like a percussion breaker. That is a really efficient way to break brittle rock as we all know with concrete.

  10. Head games.

    The kids took my wife out for dinner (mothers day), made her quite the happy lady. On the way home, my wife expressed an interest in a McDonalds™ ice creme cone. While picking it up at the window, the asked if I needed any thing else, I responded “Extra pepper please.”

    (No burger, no fries, just the ice creme… and extra pepper)

    I have to admit, the girl looked a bit perplexed as she fished around for the pepper packets. 😀

    • black pepper on Your ice cream?? i love cayenne pepper and orange marmaide.. on vanilla ice cream…. ((Alergic to chocolate== so like to experiment with other tastes)) er… Happy Mother’s Day! the whole household is in Anchorage for the weekend and i have the house all to myself and watching live feed of volcano in Hawaii with the sound up…. 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day to ME!

      • Chilli sauce on ice cream is absolutely wonderful (ok, I think it’s absolutely wonderful, but that may be because I am strange).

    • I once had a ladyfriend (not the romantic version of it, just friends) that used to binge vanilla ice cream with cubed raw potatoes once a month. It is so far the weirdest ice cream condiment that I have heard of. Pepper Ice Cream could in the right mixture be something.

    • Grats!

      BTW, no, I never put pepper on ice creme. But… now there is a window order taker that just witnessed me getting ice creme and asking for black pepper to go with it. How much you want to bet that somewhere in the back of her mind, she is wondering what it tastes like… 😀

      • You just know that now I will have to go and try it…
        I guess I am the guy getting my head screwed. 🙂

        • pepper with vanilla and a hint of nutmeg might be quite tasty.

      • Well, it’s the idea of putting a question in someones mind that they have to act on of their on volition. If it tastes horrible, you have no one to blame but yourself. ← This is the cool bit 😀 They were not told to do it.

        This is different to an actual prank where you get some one to do something based on bad advise. For those, you can be targeted as the actual cause. I made a “smart ass” comment to my cousins future husband {on his wedding day} about what sort of peppers I had laying on a napkin next to my plate of eggs. When asked what they were I said “miniature sweet bells.” I had no idea he would scarf one of those up and bite off half of one of my freshly grown Habanero peppers. About ten years later, my cousin finally resumed talking to me. (My uncle *her dad* thought it was the funniest thing ever.)

        It’s too bad my uncle has since died. Just this month, in an act of reconciliation, I made a batch of chipotle using (habaneros at her request). She wanted something that she could taste since she was having sinus issues. I repeatedly warned her about what the source pepper was but she insisted. I found out that her husband tried a bit of it. (again). This time it wasn’t my fault. Both of them knew what my peppers were capable of.

        • Despite my warning as to its potency, one of my in-laws ate one of the Trinidad Scorpions I used to grow. About 7 times hotter than a habanero, it was enough to send him off to hospital.

          • If you still have seeds, I’m intrested in aquiring a few.

            (I’ve got an a freind that needs a wake up call)

          • No seeds left now, unfortunately. Moved house about a year ago and renting now, nowhere to grow the plants.

            I got seeds from these guys

            Grew Habaneros, Bhut Jolokias, Trinidad Scorpions and Carolina Reapers, plus a handful of others, milder ones.
            There are other companies that sell them, too, but I don’t want to put too many links in the post as Akismet will lead me down the stairs and lock me up if I do.

        • Seeds are available on the net, many on ebay. For some obscure reason a firm in south devon, UK, have become specialists in all sorts of chillies and breed their own too.

          The instructions on the side of one read “Important. Do not open without complete skin coverage and a respirator.”

          Lurk would likely enjoy them.

          PS I am soon off to visit Utah, Arizona, death valley. No volcanoes there except sunset craters, but amazing scenery and a nice meteor crater. I expect some advice will follow but the route is set, approx 200 miles/day with a couple of long days.

      • Knew a Franciscan that went to a silent retreat (week end long) and watched one guy put pepper on EVERYTHING! but he couldn’t ask him about it… silent retreat…. and when they finally had vanilla ice cream for desert on Sunday night and the guy sprinkled pepper on that, well, he just about lost it….. Finally at the end of the retreat he accousted the guy and asked what gives???? and the guy said he was a heart specialist and pepper was good for Your heart… side info…. my friend was a cook and couldn’t take it… lost all contemplation of the retreat… he almost had a stroke…. Best!motsfo (still smile about it)

    Location of 17-18-19 based on video. Someone tell Civil Beat its only 3-4 miles to the ocean.

  12. USGS Volcanoes🌋
    3 min
    #HVO #Kilauea video update May 13: New fissure 17 NE of #16, 0.5 mi S of Hwy 132. Lava spatter & sluggish flow but no large flows yet. Gas emissions high. Seismicity, deflation, steam cloud continue at summit, no groundwater explosions yet

  13. HVO has a new map of this fissure. This one that is erupting right now and in Ikaika’s video is actually fissure 17 as the original fissure 17 reported yesterday didn’t erupt apparently, only glowed.

    Fissure 17 (this one erupting now) is actually somewhat north of the line held by the previous fissures, about half way between fissure 16 and the hwy 132 cracks and parallel to fissure 16.
    This could be the new dike erupting now, which might explain the explosiveness somewhat although there is probably steam involved too. HVO has said there is a lava flow but it is slow moving and there are no pictures to confirm how big it is yet, no one wants to go near this one… If this is the new dike erupting then this might go on for a long time or get a lot bigger.

    • “no one wants to go near this one”

      I can’t say as I blame them. Our running thought here is that the later fissures have more and more fluid magma. Eventually, (if we are correct) then one of them will produce a flow that likes to move around. If it’s in a heavily vegetated area, and things get nasty and you flee, you might smack into a tree. (I’ve done this under other circumstances, it ain’t fun) {also why I am not fond of snakes} “Red Black and Yellow make you soil your pants” Did a full body tackle of my cousin before I hit the tree. Ran right through him.

      The actual saying is “red black and yellow can kill a fellow” {Coral snake. The only venomous non Pit Viper in the SE US. Related to the cobra in bite method} Pit Vipers have fangs, Coral Snakes chew the venom into you. Some non venomous snakes have similar markings. The prudent thing is to just get away from it no matter what.

      • From the description given by HVO, this fissure has a lava flow from it but they said it was slow, however this area is quite flat so even a big flow will be slow. The 1960 flow took two days to reach the ocean even though the eruption rate was very high and the vent was only a bit over 2 km from the shoreline at that time.
        That being said it is pretty clear this new vent has nowhere near the sort of eruption rate of 1960, there are no continuous lava fountains, only very high but intermittent blasts of spatter. It is possible that the explosive ejections are coming from only one side of the fissure and the rest is erupting lava, I think there will be pictures soon.

      • i thought it was Red on Yellow; Kill a fellow and Red on Black; Venom lack.. ::

    • The fissure trend had to make a jog to the north at one time or another (although 1955 technically jogged to the *south* because the propagation was uprift).

  14. When I look at the available GPS stations it appears that most of the mountain moved east and south. Of course the areas near the quake moved more than the areas on the west of Mauna Loa, but you can see it on the GPS on Hualalai.

  15. First proper look at fissure 17, even if the footage was probably from a few hours ago and things have started getting a bit more serious since then.

    I think there was a helicopter in one of Ikaika’s streams which was probably when this video was taken.

    • Looks like there are two segments to this fissure, one offset at a slight angle relative to the other, and it looks like what was originally reported as fissure 17 is now more clearly visible as just another segment of fissure 16, or a crack that in the end didn’t erupt more than gas. (1:05 into the video)

      Not sure how significant that is, or if it indicates a change in direction of the rift there. The westernmost (let’s say 17A) is pointing more towards Kapoho Crater, whereas the easternmost is pointing more to the north. If the rift is bending northwards here, the lava may not be draining straight down to the coast, but may end up going north of Kapoho Crater, something which may have worse consequences for Kapoho itself.

      • Well for the last few days I thought that an eruption would happen where the cracks in hwy 132 were, but I think that area might only be tectonic and related to movement of the kapoho graben. The leilani fissures were pretty random in their location, and were often erupting viscous lava and in a more strombolian fashion, with lava fountains up to 100 meters high but little volume except for fissure 8. Fissure 16 and 17 are more fluid looking
        This new fissure is a bit offset to the north from the previous ones, a bit less than half way to hwy 132 starting from fissure 16. There is also a lava flow, though it is slow and moving to the east a bit. I’m assuming it is still active as nothing says otherwise.
        Yes I think the original fissure 17 was just a bit of fissure 16 that didn’t manage to erupt, the most recent fissure is the actual 17th vent. With the recent trend, I somehow dont think it will be the last one either, and the closer they get to kapoho crater the greater the chance it will follow it in eruption style.
        Kapoho crater partly overlies flows from pu’u honuaula (the hill behind the geothermal plant where the webcam is) and pu’u honuaula has been dated to have formed around 1650, so the eruption that formed kapoho crater was quite recent, in the period between 1650 and 1790, and therefor it didn’t form a long time ago originally as an island that later got surrounded by newer flows. I dont know if there is an associated non-explosive deposit with it or not, but there probably is, maybe it was small and very limited in scale like a lot of the recent fissures were…

  16. “…In a geological echo of the uncertainty principle, we can only narrow down the location of a future earthquake if we are very fuzzy about the timeframe over which it will occur…”

    Highly Allochthonous

    Schrödinger’s Volcano anyone?

    • This sounds like a no-brainer. I am absolutely certain there will be a meteorite impacting the place where I am now. I am absolutely unsure about when, but it will happen.

      • Not necessarily, depends on the density of meteor impacts before ‘where you are standing’ becomes subsumed/spread about or ultimately part of the sun, before any impact has time to happen.

        • Earth should survive the sun. Anyway, it just means you have to redefine the ‘where’ a bit.

    • Well, to us it’s a no-brainer. Some don’t realize this though.

  17. What is going on with the tilt atop Mauna Loa? It looks like a harmonic tremor superimposed over the general line?

    • Diurnal variation: it is seen some days and not on others but the effect has been there for a long time. it seems to be caused by temperature changes. Possibly the instrument catches the afternoon sun.

      • I wonder if what was referred to is the increasing noise in the signal over the last few days, rather than the diurnal rhythm on which the noise is superimposed. There does seem to be a lot more noise in that signal starting on 12 May.

        • Yes, the 5/12 shift is what I am referring to, it is significant and seemingly increasing.

    • Double eruption… >:D
      Somehow I doubt the next mauna loa eruption will be the ‘big one’ though, it will probably be small but followed a few months/years later by a bigger eruption. Something like 1975 – 1984 or 1949 – 1950, small summit eruption followed by big flank eruption. Or this tremor is completely unrelated to an eruption at mauna loa and is from kilauea, maybe. (or someone is testing their new ultimate all-terrain amphibious railgun tank at the top of mauna loa to see if it can handle a volcano 🙂 )

  18. There is a 33 minute livestream of fissure 17 on EpicLava’s facebook page, Somehow I dont think there will be much business for a while, with pu’u o’o looking the way it is…

    The livestream was 7 hours ago but it shows how big this fissure was compared to a lot of the other ones. I think this was at the same time as Ikaika’s livestream, and also the overflight by Mick. I wonder if it is any bigger now, or if it stopped again and a new one is breaking out even further east.

    • Having some experience with pressurised steam, those steam blasts are absolutely terrifying.

      • The only thing regarding a steam explosion that I have been involved in was when I tried to throw water on some molten metal. I thought it was lead/zinc alloy which would be dense with a relatively low melting point, but it was actually aluminium/zinc alloy which is much hotter and less dense, some of the water got underneath the upper surface and a bit splattered, a tiny spec landed on my arm. It wasnt that bad but I havent tried to melt that stuff since then… That was beyond tiny compared to this…

  19. it might have taken a leaf out of Carl’s book and hitched a wave

  20. Continuous high fountaining at one part of fissure 17 now… Its building a cinder cone and there is definitely a lava flow going to the south, I think its going to get to the ocean in a few days.
    The rest is erupting intermittently with loud explosions, I think some of the lava bombs probably at least 100 meters high from near the cinder cone and probably some lava bombs get almost 600 meters high during some of the really big explosions…… This is definitely not a small vent anymore, I think this is the real deal and about to bring this eruption up into the bigger ranks. I dont think I have seen a flank eruption at kilauea actually get this explosive apart from when groundwater got into the 1960 fissures on the second day of the eruption (is that what is happening here?).
    I dont even know if you could call this a hawaiian type eruption, more a half way point between hawaiian and strombolian, like what happens at big flank eruptions on mt etna.

  21. Wow, the fissure that was formerly known as fissure 17 but later called off because it didnt erupt, actually did erupt briefly, but only after the actual fissure 17, which was thought to be fissure 18, had started erupting… So what was formerly known as fissure 18 is now fissure 17, and what was called fissure 17 but then merged with fissure 16 and then dropped entirely, is now fissure 18… Pele is trolling 😉

      • No probably not, it might change hawaii’s climate for a little bit though, all the acid rain, but its not like that is any different than what has already been happening. Acid rain isnt poisonous, it is just damaging to plants and can cause tooth decay, but we drink acidic things all the time so its not that bad. In Hawaii there is really only sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid, which can be very corrosive but are not toxic in the true meaning of the word (they are not poisonous like cyanide or arsenic). in Iceland it is much worse because some of that acid is hydrofluoric acid which IS a poison and while it does all the things you expect acid to do, before that happens it also sucks calcium ions from your blood and skeleton, the results are as lethal as it sounds… HF is basically what happens when you decide to let Satan create his own universal solvent, because water is too nice…

        That livestream is still going? Wow, the lava fountains are still getting bigger, MUCH bigger… I didnt think high fountains would be possible at kilauea now because of the two very long lived open holes allowing extensive degassing, I guess Pele doesnt care what we think though 😉

        It reminds me of this picture from 1960, I’m sure you have all seen it but it makes a nice backdrop, even if it didn’t stay that way for long, somehow I get the feeling this might be a case of deja vu…

        • Plus, these fissures are effectively a proxy of the lava lake that has been sat at the summit and i assume that was probably pumping out gases on a comparable scale? Kilauea/Manu Loa between them have basically been in a state of constant eruption for yonks.

          • Well I think about 95% of the magma was not actually in either the summit lava lake or pu’u o’o, but the initial magma for the intrusion came from between pu’u o’o and mauna ulu, with the majority coming from the summit afterwards. The summit has deflated by almost 600 microradians, that is almost twice what happened in 1960… This actually might still not be that close to the full volume accumulated over the last 30 years, but the amount of magma needed to fuel a seriously huge eruption in lower puna is there already, and might not need much to make it erupt. This fissure might do it, but others could erupt later on with similar force too.

            Are there any active livestreams of fissure 17?

          • The tilt is not the same as the deflation. It depends on the depth and width of the magma depletion, and of course on the location of the tilt measurement. So far there has been a reasonable correspondence, but the volume loss comes from the deflation pattern. The tilt can only give a proxy.

      • i’m watching that one too, Janet….. Nice clouds…. but the feed is too fast for me to follow so i “Just look at the pictures”… 😉 Best!motsfo

  22. There’s a fairly big lava flow extended off to the west, now. The glow is easily seen now in the live stream, as the daylight is fading.

    • I think it is more just going straight south, the steepest descent lines go mostly south from here according to the HVO map, none of them go west at all really, but one of them goes right through pohoiki… I guess we will have to wait until someone does an overflight to see where the lava is going. It is definitely going somewhere though, this one isn’t just a small spattering like the first fissures in leilani, this is much bigger than that…

      Im going to go out and guess that there will be a visible new cinder cone there by the morning, the successor to pu’u o’o.

      I wonder what they will call it when this is all over.

  23. The lava fountains are still getting bigger and changing colour becoming more brighter and the noise seems to be increasing aswell .

    • The colour change is mostly just because it’s getting darker, so the lava looks brighter against the background. The camera will also adjust for the lower light, further brightening the lava.

    • That is probably a part of this fissure, it was by far the longest one, so I think that glow was from a newer bit extending from the uprift end, not a new fissure as such.

  24. HVO reports that the lava is flowing northeast, parallel to highway 132 (which would make it east-northeast). That will point it near to the 1955 flow.

  25. Normally I’m delighted I am not in facebook, but now I’m missing the pyrotechnics…
    Any public video of this, real time is not good due time difference (=dark).

    • This one is a much better resolution too, although it is a bit zoomed in, you cant see the explosive vents much.

    • Stunningly awesome. Earth’s own firework displays beat anything that Brocks or Standard can muster (do Brocks and Standard still make fireworks?)

    • I watched that until the battery went flat. (On his recording kit, that is, not Kilauea itself). Impressive fissure!

      • I wonder what the lava flow looks like now. Im guessing it is maybe at least 2 km away, the flow was moving quite quickly when HVO first saw it when it was new, and since then things have gotten a lot more intense. Even if it is quite viscous a lot of mt etnas lava can flow a long way quickly, so with the increasing effusion rate of this fissure I think even the thick lava it is erupting now could have gone quite far. The ocean is only a few km from the vents here so an ocean entry could start soon. I guess if the new magma gets to the surface the things would speed up a lot.

  26. The new lava is still highly viscous for being Hawaiian basalt. Its still between Hawaiian and strombolian in viscosity and clearly not a true fluid hawaiian eruption. The lava almost Looks like the very most fluid Etna can do.

    • Based on the size of this eruption though I think this one might be directly connected to the new dike, I mean all the fissures might have been, but the ones in leilani might have only been old magma pushed out by the new dike without actually being connected. Clearly there is a difference between the previous vents and this one, really even fissure 8 was quite small compared to this. I guess at some point probably in the next few hours to days it will erupt a much more fluid lava, which might cause any of these flows to surge towards the ocean suddenly. I think with how big this vent is the new 2018 dike will probably surface here, with magma that is hotter and more like the stuff erupting on pu’u o’o earlier.

  27. I just had to turn the volume down, awesome, scary, makes one think, terrafirma being solid ground under our feet ??

    • Karulei…… Terra has always been Unfirma…… don’t be afraid….. “no one gets out of here alive” said my 95 year old friend…. don’t be afraid of dying…. be afraid of not living while You Are here… Hugs to You and act brave until You feel it…. it’s exhilarating. Take a breathe… are You still alive? You are? Then go for it…… Off to another adventure…. 😉 All the Best!motsfo

  28. A comment on one of the cams at 11.40 pm local time reports “huge explosion sound” from the summit area…Anyone know anything about this?

    • I saw a reference to that on the HHN news report. That video was showing what appears to be a steam and gas condensation cloud which had formed above the currently erupting fissures, and not any kind of eruption column isually associated with explosive volcanoes.

      My guess would be that the person heard one of the more forceful steam explosions at fissure 17, saw the cloud, added 2+2 and got 5.

      Unless I have misunderstood what the news report was about, in which case I’m the one adding to 5.

      • Thinking about it, that video was taken during daylight, so probably not talking about the same explosion.

  29. Has anyone confirmed that this is old lava from USGS?

    Put in the approval queue. Future comments should hopefully appear instantly, assuming our deamon got the message – admin

  30. Yesterdays View over the erupting fissure, feeding large rubbly Aa flows, thats why its dark and unreflective, only close to the spattering and splashes you finds any smooth crust. The fountains increased this morning May 14 causing the lava to advance even faster, All is Aa lava feed by smoother channels

    • Maybe the lava is a’a partly because of higher eruption rates? Its not flooding out, but it is definitely higher than the average eruption rate at pu’u o’o before this all started. It is also almost certainly a lot higher now than it was in that picture.
      Honestly the lava actually looks like mud that is on fire 😉

      Is there any information on what it looks like now? There hasn’t been any livestreams for a few hours and it looked like it was getting bigger… The line of steepest descent will take the flow to the ocean after about 5.5 km, so it might not take it very long at all at this rate.

  31. Two new sesimographs erz1 and 2 now are showing and reporting. One looks like near the intersection of 132 and Railroad ave. 2 is south on 137 near where the road bends as it approaches the coast near hala point.

    • They also have the other instruments in the area reporting and one of them was taken and returned from rehab, and is now clean.

      • Still no webcam overlooking the active area though…
        Kapoho crater would actually be the perfect place to put one, it would be looking at the entire area where lava can flow from this vent. I know I have said that before, but it really is pretty obvious now that an eruption has actually happened in that area.

        • According to its footer, pgcam is now near Kapoho looking northwest

          • It has always said it is near kapoho looking northwest, it was placed to look at pahoa in 2014 when the June 27 flow was active in the area.
            It was angled to look more directly west over leilani when the eruptions started.

          • This camera is on one of the cinder cones next to the geothermal plant. It looks like the same image from other nights so I don’t think they have moved it.

          • I’m assuming they didn’t move it today because they thought this fissure would be short lived and there will always be the risk of new eruption in leilani. Now that this fissure is becoming a main vent they might put something near it, theres a lot of spare cams at pu’u o’o that I dont think will be seeing anything for a while so they could get one of those.

            There is no guarantee that this vent will erupt for a long time, the first big fountaining vents in 1955 were very close to this fissure and only lasted a few days before stopping and resuming elsewhere later, so there could be multiple larger eruptions like this.
            It is interesting that this fissure is offset parallel to the others, so anything like this will probably be in line with this fissure rather than the older line through leilani. The steaming cracks far uprift at hwy 130 are also a potential eruption site in the future.

  32. I wonder if those guys who posted the Facebook video stayed at the house. I don’t think I could sleep at night with that going on.a few hundred meters away

    • I doubt it, it doesn’t take 5 hours to charge a battery so if they were still there I think they would be livestreaming it again.

    • Wow, its still going just as strong as before. Definitely a major change since last week, this vent is serious, the first big vent there in 58 years.
      I also dont think the explosions are from groundwater either, I think it would have stopped by now if that was the cause, so this really is strombolian activity from a hawaiian volcano, and not small scale either, some of the biggest bursts must be going over 300 meters high, which is easily on par with stromboli and etna. Its really hard to get a real sense of scale of how big this actually is, but apparently the trees in front of the eruption are albizia trees that easily reach over 30 meters tall when mature and these look like old trees, the lava fountains completely dwarf them…
      I dont know if explosive bursts like that really count as lava fountains but if they do it might start getting close to that 580 meter record set in kilauea iki in 1959…

    • Interesting, he says lava is going towards Ahalanui and Pohoiki Bay, moved a mile during the night, I can’t wait until the map updates, and EQ updates.

      • Bruce Omori went live on the helicopter about 8 minutes ago and the lava is already about half way to the ocean in one spot… The helicopter is really high up so it makes it all look small but the lava could reach the ocean today if it keeps going.

    • Anyone put it to music yet? I recommend Pachelbel canon in D major.

      • I like it without music. Its the first time I have ever heard the sounds from an eruption completely as they are. I was actually not entirely convinced that the sounds were real until I watched these livestreams…

        The lava field is pretty big, it might be closer than it looks but it looks pretty far down the slope. If this lasts for a few more days I think its going to reach the sea.

      • How’s about AC/DC – For Those About To (hot runny) Rock

        Released from damnation in the spam bin – Admin

      • 1812 Ouverture would fit pretty with the cannon blasts int he end.

  33. If it was true fluid Hawaiian style the lavas comming out woud form very thin grey shiney pahoehoe sheets on the ground centimeters thick
    and the lava woud be strongly – orange yellow and yellow in daylight as it comes out and just before the atmosphere cools the spatter and spattering woud form ribbons too.

    • I dont think this has happened yet then, its still about the same as last night in terms of viscosity by the look of the lava fountain. Im guessing this is old magma still but I think it will turn into new magma in 1-10 days, (very) rough guess.

  34. Its still old magma being rather viscous basalt for Hawaii. But still a ” fluid ” eruption If eruptive rates was mouch higher we woud get tall fountains and huge gushing rivers feeding large Aa flows that advance to the coast

  35. Im going to bed… Its 2:11 am where I am, so I should sleep.
    The only logical thing is that this fissure will either stop or go into high fountain mode while I’m asleep… 😉

  36. USGS Volcanoes🌋
    18 min
    #Kilauea,18 fissures now, but 17 is the most voluminous…and #LavaFountain still #erupting. Video of May 13 4:30PM heli flight – steam jets throwing #SpatterBombs up to 500 ft. East #aa #lavaflow cascading into steaming pit. #Hawaii (link:

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