Puna in numbers

Journalism is about impressions; science is about numbers. VC is standing in between these. We appreciate the immensity and power of volcanoes (and also appreciate that relatively speaking, these are manageable disasters. The human impact is awful for people concerned, but is not on the scale of major earthquakes or tsunamis. On balance, volcanoes create more than they destroy). But we also like to understand what is happening, and that means looking at data. Bear with me if numbers aren’t your thing! (But if that is your situation, I recommend you steer away from lotteries and stock markets, and keep a healthy suspicion of banks and car-dealers.)

The people living in Leilani were not told about any volcanic risks when the sites went up for sale. VC user quinauberon unearthed a 50-years-old advert which paints a very optimistic picture of the future of the area. (It also lists a misleading price that is only a down payment – something that in many places would now be illegal.) They could have found out the real risks by asking insurance companies – those always know. I once did a small bit of research on life expectancy of smokers, using a new method. It showed that smokers lived on average ten years less than non-smokers. Afterwards, I found life insurance rates and used them to derived life expectancy. It gave exactly the same number. Insurance companies always know best – but do not expect them to volunteer their data: they make a living by not telling you the real risks. One of the comments on this site gave a quote for volcano insurance for a house of 3000 USD per year. (That would be just for the event of lava overrunning your property: a bush fire started by nearby lava would be covered under fire insurance). That number suggests that the insurance company didn’t expect Leilani to last much longer than 100 years.

But this is in the past and now everyone knows the risks. There is an opportunity for an investor with unneeded cash to buy property in the area at a knock-down though realistic price. (Perhaps this should read: a knocked-down price.) (And of course, there is a second housing estate in the area, Nanawale estates which is not currently in the line of fire but build in an equally lava-ravaged environment. I just mention it.)

This is the importance of numbers. Can we put some more numbers on the current eruption? How does it compare? Are we talking world-cup size or also-ran?


The eruption started on May 3rd and has lasted three weeks so far. Puna eruptions in the past have been as short as one day (1961), so this is already more than some. The famous 1840 eruption lasted 24 days – we are getting close. The 1955 event lasted 88 days, and the 1960 one 36 days. Of course, Pu’u’O’o dwarfs them all: it lasted 12,870 days. Eruptions closer to Kilauea can last longer, but in Puna, 1-2 months is typical. From that, one can expect that we are half-way through the current eruption, with an uncertainty of a factor of 2: it could end tomorrow or it could continue for 2 more months, but based on past events, any longer would be less likely (not a Lurking ‘black swan’: we don’t have enough data to compare with Australian wildfowl).

The fissure activity has begun to migrate, with the most distant fissure losing pressure and one in the middle firing up. That is a sign that we are past the peak. Halfway may not be a bad guess.

Area coverage

A typical Puna eruptions resurfaces 10km2 with tough yet a tad uneven asphalt. As we have seen in this eruption, a lot of that comes after the initial phase, once the old sticky stuff has been dislodged and the hotter, more fluid lava starts to arrive. How are we doing up to now?

Click on map for full size

Here is the most recent HVO map. The pink shows the extent as determined on May 21, and the arrow shows the enlargement from the flows coming from fissure 15 (or thereabouts) a day later. The flow from fissure 17 has probably stalled and perhaps ceased. We also know that the lava is encroaching on the PGV but that is not yet on the map. Fissure 23 (near 5, just inside Leilani) was reported as fountaining and may be start to feed a lava flow to the southwest if it can find a slope.

The full length of the line of active or inactive fissures amounts to 6 km. Assuming that a width around it of 100 meter is covered in lava gives an area of 0.6 km2. The flow northward of fissure 8 extends about 1.5 km and is about 200 meters wide, so that is 0.3 km2. The flow from fissure 17 southeast-ward is 2 km long and 300 meters wide, so 0.6 km2. The area between fissures 20 and 17 I is almost fully covered: I estimate this as 1 by 2 km, or 2 km2. The area between fissure 15 and 20, down-slope until where the lobe starts, is roughly 2 by 1 km, also 2 km2. Finally, the two lobes to the ocean I estimate as 3 by 1 km, or 3 km2.

Adding all this together gives a current area of the lava of 8.5km2. This is rather rough and may be under- or overestimated. But it seems that this is now becoming a fairly typical-sized Puna eruption. To get into Olympic-sized territory, it needs to at least double in area. However, if more of the fissures re-activate, that is not inconceivable.

(Note added: the area is today reported as 1700 acres which is around 7 km2. The number given here was not a bad estimate.)

The images of the eruption show very nicely defined lava channels: rivers of lava in well-constrained beds. This is one of two modes of lava transport away from a vent. The other mode is through lava tubes. Lava channels cool faster (as they are exposed to the air) and therefore carry the lava less far. As long as these channels are present, the flow field can widen quite easily. Once lava tubes form, all the expansion will be at the lava front.


This is anyone’s guess! Assuming that the lava everywhere is 5 meters thick, the volume times the thickness gives an erupted volume of a bit less than 0.05 km3. But this is probably an overestimate. A volume of 0.1 km3 is quite typical for a Puna lava flow and that may be where we are heading.

How much magma was injected into the rift below Puna? We can guess from the lava lake at Halemaumau: assuming a 200 meter wide crater, in which the lava was lowered by 400 meter, the amount lost is around 0.04 km3. Pu’u’O’o also lost its lava but this was a much smaller source. The lost magma is stored in the rift. Assuming a dyke 1 km tall and 20 km long, it would require 0.02km3 to fill it. Much of the new magma will thus still be inside that dyke. As the pressure becomes lower, the dyke will narrow and will try to push some of this magma out: this can give eruptions at unexpected locations, up-rift, which can be significant but cannot match the output of the main eruption. Part of the ‘dyked’ magma will fail to come out and remain in situ after the events have ended, and form the sticky stuff in future eruptions.

How does the lava production compare to international standards? The king of lava is Iceland: it produces around 20km3 per millennium, or 0.02 km3 per year. The rate for Kilauea is difficult to calculate because it varies so much over time. Between 1840 and 1950, lava was produced at a rate of 0.01 km3 per year. After 1950, this jumped to an average of 0.05 km3 per year. Over the combined period, Kilauea can match all of Iceland! Add Mauna Loa, and Hawaii’s rate become twice that of Iceland. Not bad! (The reason is that Iceland is a spreading rift zone: 90% of its magma is used to fill the spreading rift and never gets anywhere near the surface. In Hawaii, most of the magma comes up, as it has nowhere else to go.)

If this was a newspaper article, we would now state how many Olympic-sized swimming pools this eruption would fill. This is, however, not a scientifically accepted unit of volume. In fact, it varies from pool to pool, as only the length of the swimming pool is specified in the rules of the Olympic games, not the depth. But let’s say it is 2.5 million liters, and you find that the Puna eruption so far would have filled 20,000 of them. As we only need one such pool every four years, that would have taken us to the year 7,018 AD before all the recipient pools were build. By this time the lava would have been stone cold, difficult to get into the pools and not easy to swim in.


Volcanoes are prolific energy producers. In fact, the main scale used to classify volcanic events, the VEI scale, is a measure of explosive energy.

This scale has one obvious problem: the units don’t match. The main number is the volume of tephra production. But energy should be measured in Joule, not cubic (kilo)meter. And if you want to use the power, that is energy per second, so it becomes important how long an eruption lasts. The Pu’u’O’o eruption produced more than 4 km3 of lava, but it lasted more than 30 years. It therefore is not count as a VEI5, even though there does not appear to be a specific rule that forbids this!

The Kilauea summit eruptions produced tephra: judging from the images, there is a layer a couple of centimeters thick over an area of a few square km. That brings the summit up to VEI1 -perhaps VEI2 at best.

How about the fissure eruption? On the scale above, that would be a VEI3 by now. However, one should note that the ejected volume in the table should be tephra, i.e. pulverised rock. The fissure mainly put out lava – molten, not pulverised rock. If this has been tephra, it would be a few times larger in volume, i.e. VEI4. But it is clear that a scale devised for explosive events gives nonsensical results if applied unthinkingly to effusive eruptions. Can we do better?

Let’s work with the number of 0.05 km3 of lava ejected in Puna, and let’s assume it has a temperature of 900 C above the normal Hawaiian temperature. The energy needed to heat 1 kg of lava by 1 degree C is 1000 Joule. The lava weighs rather more than 1 kg. 1 m3 of lava weight 2500 kg, and therefore 0.05 km3 weighs 1.25 x 1011 kg. To heat this by 1 degree C requires 1.25 x 1014 Joule. To heat it by 900 C therefore takes 1.1 1017 Joule. This is how much energy the lava carries! The Puna geothermal plant would have taken 100 years to produce this much energy. They may have missed an opportuinity.

This is the thermal energy in the lava. There is also energy needed for the melting itself, called the latent heat. This is in addition to the energy needed to heat it to the melting temperature. It takes 4.0 x 105 Joule to melt 1 kg of rock. For the amount of 0.05 km3 of lava, the energy needed to melt it is 5 x 1016 Joule. Add this to the thermal energy, and you get a total energy content of the lava of 1.6 x 1017 Joule. Enough to cover the entire energy requirements of humanity for a few weeks.

The potential energy can be added: assuming it erupts at 500 meter and flows down to sea level, this generates an amount of energy equal to mass times height times gravitational acceleration, and give 600 TJ. This is significant in itself but pales in comparison to the heat.

Now the fun bit. This amount of energy is equivalent to around 40 megatons TNT. The largest nuclear bomb ever detonated had a yield of 50 megatons. Puna is suffering the impact of an event with an energy close to that of the largest weapon humankind (or unkind) has ever created. That give some perspective to what the people there are living through!

How does that compare to the VEI scale? We need to calibrate it to another eruption with a VEI number. USGS has reported that the explosion of Mount St Helens was equivalent to 7 megatons, with an additional 17 megatons of thermal energy. That eruption produced about 1 km3 of tephra making it a VEI5. Puna has (so far) produced about twice the energy of St Helens. If this energy had been used in the same way as St Helens, i.e. a thermal to explosion energy ratio of 2.5:1, this could have produced a 2km3 tephra cloud. To get above 10 km3 would require a five times larger eruption. That seems unlikely at the current time, and it remains in VEI5 territory.

I therefore declare the Puna eruption of 2018 to be equivalent to a VEI5. It is world cup territory – but likely to be knocked out in the group stages. In that respect, perhaps Puna is a bit like little England.

Albert, May 2018

268 thoughts on “Puna in numbers

  1. This is new to me….Mini updates.

    “Kilauea – 2018-05-25 08:13:29
    Field crews report a pāhoehoe flow advancing north on Kaupili St. in Leilani Estates.
    Kilauea – 2018-05-25 05:55:11
    Infrasound sensors in LERZ indicate significant fissure activity in the Leilani area, roughly around fissure 21 (Kaupili St and Leilani Ave).”

    Found here.

  2. PGcam tonight. The activity is shifting to the centre of the field, the area of fissure 10

    How quickly paradise can turn against you. It is awful for the people who lived there.

  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOCyT9ySb5U

    This is what the June 27 flow looks like now, only 3.5 years old and already covered in plants. I guess that is what this eruption current will look like 3 years after it ends too. Well maybe not all of it (a big cinder cone would take much longer to grow plants on it for example) but most of it at least.

    Also he sounds exactly like https://www.youtube.com/user/LAVALOVERBO/videos. Apparently Bo died in a car crash a few days after the last video on his channel was taken. They both even say aloha the same way at the end.
    I used to watch those videos as soon as they came out because HVO was not very frequent with their picture updates back in 2012 so I watched this guy instead. That lava has nothing on what is happening now though…

    • Odd. I was listening to LE there the other day trying to corner some people street racing. Evidently Toyota has improved their Corollas. When I was 17, my freinds corolla had to have the AC off in order to go uphill… or one of us had to get out.

      • OT, but modern 4 bangers have a LOT more power than when we were younger. I started to see this happening back in the 80s. My dad would pull his 26 footer behind a 4 banger Toyauto pickup and still have no problem with hills. And my brothers Celica also punched above its weight. As well pretty much all of the car manufacturers seem to upgrade the base model over time then introduce a new line at the bottom end. In Toyota´s case the Etios has taken over the Corollas old role as entry level.

  4. This is getting interesting…

    Check out this GIF of Kilauea Caldera. It includes a new updated radar image as of May 21.at 5:12 am HST. The newest image has the Overlook vent getting even bigger. Same goes for the subsidence feature to the east (that feature is very hard if not impossible to see in the HVO webcams though).

      • The steam is coming from cracks in the subsided area. Were these there before? I didn’t find any pictures to compare yet.

    • When the lava returns they will have a way bigger lava lake

    • Okay, THAT 3rd frame makes things much easier to understand. We are seeing a series of segmented failures as the crater floor falls into the already existing calderea.

      Like Iceland, as each chunk falls off the wall, it will generate a seismic signal like ice falling off a calving glacier.

    • Found a picture from HVO, dating 2009. It has a slight different angle, so I marked some areas, just for comparing to the screenshot extracted from the 21th May USGS video above.

      A bit rough, but it shows. 🙂

      • Is this in Hawaii? There were quite a few quakes under the big island about 20-30 minutes ago.

  5. Looks like it will have to melt, or blow out a lot of stuff.

  6. There seems to be a bit of a change in the radial tilt registration at Uwēkahuna (UWE), on the northwest rim of Kīlauea’s caldera. After every hiccup the tilt decrease is accelerating ….
    I have been trying to imagine what is happening, but I can’t get a single finger behind it. I know the angle of surface changes (radial tilt), but what process does the graph show at Kilauea?

    What is that hiccup (sudden increase) and why could the decrease been accelerating past days. Is it just deflation?

    • 4.4 quake at the summit just now. But this time the tilt went down instead of up.

    • Following Albert’s suggestion, I speculate …

      that the closest estimate of overall subsidence as measured by tilt ought to come from the lowest points of the saw tooth in the diagram.

      What also might be happening is that EQ’s over a certain threshold of effective energy shake the magma pools under the caldera to cause the temporary release of small amounts of gases. These gases pretty much instantly raise the caldera floor a bit.

      Over the next day, or so, the gases are absorbed back into the magma. So, the saw tooth is caused by sudden release and slow re-absorption of gases.

      • Interesting is that the sawtooth is keeping the tilt quite constant. As magma is draining, the tilt changes, until you get a jolt and it goes back to where to the original level. That has been the cause for the past 10 days. The earthquakes are mainly in the southern part of the caldera. It is a bit guessing, but I think as the magma drains, the rock is adjusting to lower pressure and popping back up.

        But there is another change in recent days: the GPS had been showing decreasing deflation, but that has now increased again. And not only in Kilauea but also Pu’u’O’o is deflating further, after it had hit rock bottom. I think as the magma in Leilani has found its hole, the pressure there has lessened and that is now sucking in magma from uprift again. The alternative is that the deep dike (at sea level according to HVO: it lies below the original dike to Pu’u’O’o) has increased capacity.

        • Is the dike to pu’u o’o above sea level? I thought it would have to be at least 1 km deep to avoid having it just break out at any point between pu’u o’o and the summit. I think the dike would also have erupted through one of the pit craters if it was that shallow, particularly makaopuhi crater is very deep, 140 meters or so. The pu’u o’o dike is probably at sea level, and there is a deep feeder system underneath that which might not have been connected to pu’u o’o initially but managed to connect in February 2018, leading to inflation of pu’u o’o and then the lower rift intrusion.

          If the inflation is accelerating again then more magma is on its way which could be the start of even more intense activity, high fountains and massive cinder cone formation. I know I have been saying high fountaining is imminent for about a week now, but in that time the eruption has been increasing, so it is not really without reason. This summit deflation could be a big new pulse of hot gas-rich magma from the summit reservoir, which is exactly the sort of thing that would induce high fountaining. It could also cause eruptions on or near highway 130, which would really be a major game changer. It appears that every eruption from kilauea since 1952 that has lasted at least a week has transitioned to high fountaining at some point. Sometimes it is very quick (1960 took about a week and 1959 took only 3 days) but sometimes it takes much longer (1955 took over 2 months and the pu’u o’o eruption took over a year…). I think that one of the fountains in this eruption from fissure 17 exceeded the 200 meter mark but that was more strombolian activity than a true lava fountain.
          It might not be coincidental that the length of this continuous fissure now is about the same as the one that formed in the huge eruption of 1840, maybe the activity up to now, as big as it already has been, is just a precursor to something massive…
          Im still convinced that by the time this is over the southeast part of leilani estates might better be called pu’u leilani. At least there will be a monument to all this then.

          • I recalled this from the HVO talk. However, they may have meant the end point of the dike. In Icelandic fires, the calderas go down to the level of the point where the fire erupted. Maybe something similar will happen here. The eruption will end (apart from brief final events) when the flow rate becomes insufficient to keep the dike open. I would guess that an indication that this is happening is when the earthquakes at Kilauea diminish.

          • I dont think that Iceland is a really good analogy to Hawaii. They both might actually work the same way but the tectonics are completely different. Hawaii is really just a bigger than average but completely normal cluster of shield volcanoes, while Iceland is really nothing like any other volcanic system. It is similar to the afar triangle but even then there are notable differences. The rifts in Hawaii are superficial while the rifts in Iceland are actual plate boundaries. I think this is a really important difference.
            It is true that most of the magma in big Icelandic eruptions would come from magma reservoirs centered under visible volcanoes, resulting in deflation of said central volcano, however the bigger rifts almost certainly go straight into the mantle with an event of that magnitude, which would fit Carl’s theory on the subject too. I think the volume of the biggest flood basalts is a lot more than the size of the calderas. Plus we dont actually know exactly when the calderas of most of the big volcanoes in Iceland formed, while the lava flows are known with more certainty, so the calderas might not even be directly related to the eruption of large flood basalts.
            I doubt grimsvotns caldera formed in 1783 though or someone would have noticed a missing mountain, and it would probably be much less active than it actually is currently (volcanoes dont usually have borderline VEI 5s that soon after a major caldera formation), but I think that would be much better debated with Carl though rather than me.

          • The caldera sizes fit the size of the major fires pretty well, and the level of the caldera fit with the eruption level. We have argued here that the fires were gravity driven, just as was the case with Bardarbunga. The Vatnajokul area was very little known in the 1700’s, and Iceland not well populated. Note that even Bardarbunga was only recently discovered. Our Eldgja series go over this model.

          • Wait when was bardarbunga actually discovered?

            I thought Carl did some of his own personal study of the skaftar fires flows and found them to be different to the magma erupted directly at grimsvotn, he made a long series of posts on it a long time ago which were also the first articles I ever read on this forum.

            Maybe the gravity model is fine for katla because it is not over the hotspot, but grimsvotn is and the eruptions in 1783 started at the far end of the fissure and migrated backwards towards vatnajokull, which possibly indicates that the initial eruption was magma directly under the rift that had flowed along a weak spot at the crust/mantle boundary and then the release of pressure associated with the rifting was the same sort of effect as opening a can of coke that was shaken, and as the rift went north it opened more vents but as there were more open holes it lead to lower flow rates until the event stopped. I dont really know if magma seeping under the dead zone slowly along the bottom of the fractures would count as an actual dike intrusion as the event would be passive and slow. This might be supported by the fact that the area is too hot for earthquakes to happen in any large numbers, which means that the ground is ductile and a slow passive intrusion under the crust could happen in complete silence until the rift opens above it. This wouldn’t form a caldera or even much deflation because the emplacement would be slow and in the case of grimsvotn it would very likely be outpaced by its magma supply rate. It is really more of a slow.
            Maybe the same thing happened at katla too, with the magma passively seeping north and when a rift opened above it all just came out.

            There is also the problem of there being several other volcanoes between grimsvotn and the 1783 fissures, the eruption was probably from one of those instead and I think they are poorly studied so they could have had recent caldera collapses, while grimsvotn has a much older caldera. The simultaneous eruption of grimsvotn in 1783-85 could have been because of magma from further south going north or pushing magma towards grimsvotn and causing an eruption there, rather than it being the point of origin.

            I guess this model is quite different to holuhraun, which formed as a result of a forcefully intruded dike that was contained within the crust, and this might be a major part of why the really big fissures are so unusual compared to their smaller counterparts. Holuhraun was probably on the very large end of what a ‘normal’ fissure eruption is. The veidivotn eruptions would be examples of smaller to average flood basalt fissures, and eldgja and skaftar fires, as well as thorsja, are all at least above average fissures. This whole precess would be similar to the eruption mechanism for hekla except slower and on a way bigger scale. It would also be somewhat of a combination of yours and Carl’s theories.

          • Holuhraun had the same argument: people initially thought the magma indicated a separate source. But that was settled by the behaviour of Bardarbunga: the caldera collapse was exactly in step with the fissure. The migration back along the rift is because as the caldera lowers, the pressure from gravity becomes less and the flow rate in the dike decreases. The dike can only go as far until the lava becomes too cold and slow, and at lower flow rates the cooling is faster. That also turned off Holuhraun, although by that time it was unable to break through up-rift. There is a clear connection between the lava from Laki and Grimsvotn. And somewhere must be a hole left by 15km3 of magma – and Gimsvotn happens to have a big hole. I rest my case.

            Applying this here, the movement of activity uprift in Puna suggests that the total flow rate is declining. As it should, now that the magma in Kilauea has less head.

          • The thing I am confused with though is that the caldera formed if the dike was entirely contained within the crust is going to be the volume of the eruption added to the volume of the dike. With holuhraun the volume of dike was a significant percent of the eruption size. For the the size of the big rifting fissures the volume of the dike would be considerable, the dike was probably 20 meters wide or more otherwise I don’t think that enough magma would actually be able to erupt to fit the observations of 1500 meter lava fountains. To get that sort of height you would also need the magma to have some depth into the crust probably at least 5 km. Holuhraun was pretty deep but the pressure of degassing wasn’t enough to form anywhere near that sort of height. This means that the skaftar dike would have had to be very deep anyway and with a rifting event of that magnitude it seems likely the rift extended into the mantle. That basically describes my idea exactly. 😉

            The caldera of grimsvotn could fit the size of the erupted lava but the volume of the dike would be unexplained as far as I know. Grimsvotn also has 3 calderas, and they might not be directly connected.
            Bardarbungas caldera is also bigger than grimsvotn a but didn’t have the mass to force magma out at flood basalt rates for more than a few days, while skaftar went on like that for months.

            I also recall that a comparison was made with the 2008 dike in Ethiopia as support for the dike being contained within the crust. That dike didn’t form a flood basalt, in fact it barely erupted at all, which doesn’t sound like a very good comparison to skaftar fires. That dike also had a volume of a few km3 so the plumbing under skaftar would have to be at least that sort of size and probably much bigger realistically, so the amount of magma involved in the event was probably about 50% bigger than the actual eruption, if not more. I don’t think there is a 20-25 km3 hole on grimsvotn anywhere, so a lot of the magma in the eruptions would have to have come from the mantle. The bottom of the crust in the dead zone is very likely to have deep rifts in it, and magma is a liquid that moves so there is really no reason why the magma had to only come from a small area near grimsvotn, when it could flow below the general area to the south and when the fissure opens it will just erupt directly. The caldera still forms as there is a net loss of magma there but it isn’t the driving force.

          • A 20-meter rifting fissure would be gigantic. 1-2 meters is a more realistic estimate. The pressure from the magma actually pushes the dike open, as long as the height is much more than the width. As the magma pressure reduces during the eruption, the dike becomes narrower again. But this pressure depends on viscosity, and for the fluid magmas of Kilauea and Iceland the dike width should not be more than a few meters. A viscous (felsic) magma can give much thicker dikes but it will move rather slowly. For the dike connecting Kilauea and Pu’u’O’o, the estimate was that is was 2 meters thick and was 3 km tall, but that was early in the Pu’u’O’o eruption. It may have become smaller over time. It is difficult to make the dike deeper because the rock pressure increases with the depth.

          • i was more meaning that magma that would feed up to grimsvorn and thordarhyna would also move along the bottom of the crust. The area is an extensional zone so the pressure would be somewhat reduced compared to a typical patch of crust, which would allow magma to seep in at depth and also cause some melting of the mantle underneath (not a huge amount but not negligible).

            1-2 meters wide for the skaftar vents would be similar to the jet from a fire hose going 10 meters while being being squeezed through a hole that is about a cm wide. This is fine and happens easily because steel can handle those sorts of pressures because it has metallic bonding leading to an extremely high tensile strength and water has a very low viscosity. The problem is that volcanoes are an order of magnitude or two bigger than that, rock doesn’t have a high tensile strength at all, and even hot lava is technically a highly viscous liquid, so the eruption would erode the walls to a much wider distance, which is probably why a lot of ash was erupted at the start of each fissure opening – the initial vent was too small and got blasted out until fluid lava could erupt. The peak effusion rate was somewhere between 5000 m3/s and 10,000 m3/s during the high fountains, or about 1000 times higher than the eruption in hawaii now and probably just as high as the eruption rate of vents in large traps formations (‘real flood basalts’). I cant really see something like that being able to fit through a fissure only 2 meters wide especially if it is powerful enough to spray a very dense and viscous liquid 1.5 km into the air along a 5-10 km length at 10 times the flow rate of the biggest river in Iceland all simultaneously. I’m not really good at physics or maths but this just seems impossible.

            I wonder if Carl is watching this right now 😉

          • The Icelandic dikes are likely wider than those at Hawaii. The shear stress is different in a rifting zone. But Holuhraun would not have been that much more. Eldgja – who knows. 5 meter? An interesting aside: the last stretch of the Eldgja rift, at the far end, erupted a different kind of lava, with composition much closer to grimsvotn. Knowing what we know now about Puna, I think it was left-over magma in the rift from an earlier episode, which did come from Vatnajolkul, and was pushed out by the pressure from the Katla magma. It solves what had become a bit of a puzzle.

  7. There are more cracks in the highway 130 area, they are reportedly getting bigger too so something is happening there. The way things are going it wouldn’t be surprising if it erupted within the next two days.
    They are reported as being mauka of the road, I don’t remember if that is uphill or downhill, but if it is uphill then the highway will get taken out as the flow races towards the ocean along the east side of the 1955 flow, and then basically the entire southern coast of kilauea will be isolated. Either that or it goes into the northern drainage and cuts everything off anyway and destroys most of leilani and possibly other places…
    I don’t know if chain of craters can be used realistically as there is still a huge risk at the summit.

    I would guess that the new vents might be more gas rich and probably have higher fountains. The lower fissures will probably decline a lot if a new big vent opens.

    • Its difficult to tell where will it go. It a vent opens exactly at the point where the line formed by the fissures cuts highway 130 then it will flow south but the moment its displaced towards the north or if the fissure is a long one extending towards the existing fissures then it will go into Leilani.

  8. I think someone with GPS / tilt data might be able to answer this —
    I was looking at an overhead view and I noticed that the lava pouring out of fissure 22 had gone somewhat uprift and was hardening. This is, of course, just south of where the reactivated fissures are.
    So I wonder — could the newly-added weight of the lava have anything to do with the reactivation of those fissures?

  9. Go to 6:24. You can see spouting lava in the far background. This sure doesn’t seem to line up with the fissures. Anyone know what’s up?

    • I dont think its out of line, its probably just a small vent that has been buried and is spattering very weakly compared to the main fountains.

  10. PGcam shows a lava flow coming towards the camera. Not sure how fast it is moving (if at all). If anyone knows how to capture the images, it could make a good movie.

    • Well I looked at the webcam earlier today (about 5 hours ago) and it was less than half the size it is now. It is about the same size as the fissure 8 flow from earlier this month which is about 1 km, so it has moved 1 km in 5 hours roughly. That is quite fast for the area being so flat.

        • No I didn’t save it, sorry. I think it was actually about 500 meters in 5 hours but that is still very fast, not as fast as the flows that went south but the south slope is much steeper than what the new flow is going over.

          I dont think it is currently advancing fast though, it looks like it is cooling and being buried by a newer overflow. There seems to be a big lava lake behind the fissure that could (eventually it will) completely break and send a really fast flow down in that direction. In 2008 there were a lot of lava lakes formed above a lava tube (called rootless shields) that often sent a’a flows down to the south up to 6 km in less than a day, sometimes even reaching the coastal plain from only 2 km from the vent. This lava lake is way bigger than any of those ones were so if it really breaks open then the lava would cover that area in hours and possibly even reach the ocean on the north coast 11 km away in less than 2 days.

    • and it just seemed to light up with the last refresh… Best!motsfo

          • The intense glow is from the reflection off of the steam cloud, I dont think the fountain is actually higher. If you see little dots of light then that is a fountain.
            I will agree that the activity is definitely increasing though. There are really only two ways that will lead, either high fountaining will start at the existing fissures or new fissures will open uprift, with neither being very good options if the survival of the town is concerned. It is possible that both will occur at the same time too…

            It looks like the lava lake in the middle has breached to the east and started flowing into the existing channels to the south, with the flow to the north having stalled again.

    • The reverse is also true though. People thinking they are just small bubbling fountains oozing lava that is just inconvenient to those in its path to stupid to step aside.

  11. This is pretty serious now… I think the vents in the middle of leilani have taken over as the dominant vents now, as the lava channels near the ocean are not flowing as rapidly as before (they are crusted and have the a’a texture). That is a true lake of lava if I have ever seen one, dont want to be downhill of that when it breaks, you wouldn’t have a chance to outrun it if it really goes. I hope the guys who are taking all those videos are aware of this. It would probably be a brief event but the lava might flow far to the north east and maybe even get to the ocean.
    It is really pretty lucky that there aren’t any currently un-evacuated areas in the actual flow path if that happened, as a flow that fast would definitely be life threatening if you were asleep and it happened during the night.

    It would probably look like a much bigger version of this if it happens, and this flow went something like 5 km beyond this shield and almost to the coastal plain in only a few hours.

    • (can an admin replace that first link with the direct picture?)

      • No because that is not anywhere near the eruption. Vacationland is near the 1960 vent and kapoho crater. The line of descent through leilani actually enters the ocean at the same spot as where the 1840 flow did, although not from the same spot. Look at the blue lines on the HVO maps, the one through leilani goes basically through uninhabited areas once it crosses pohoiki road.

        • Those lines are just a indication.

          There is a point where the path going east comes really close to the one going north.

          • In that place where the lines come close to each other with a topographic map looks to me that actually the flow could go both ways. I guess that the blue line means that there is a higher posibility for the flow to go trough inhabited areas but being the terrain quite flat at some points if the flow gets wide then it could actually divide in two flows and endanger kapoho too.

          • [IMG][/IMG]

            This shows a heightmap of the Lower Puna area between 90 and 220 m anything above is completely white and anything below black.

            The red point is the aproximate location of the lava front from fissures 21… at the last update of the arcgis 2018 lava event public. The blue arrow is what the lava flow will do if it follows the steepest descent line. The red arrows are in my opinion possible paths leading towards Kapoho.

            I think that the red paths should be considered because the slopes are not very steep so the lava flow would be very wide, it could can also go uphill a few metters and previous flows of the area have shown to bifurcate a lot. The volume of lava carried by the flow will probably determine the outcome.

          • Of course this is only if we get a large flow which is not what we have seen coming out of this fissure up to now.

          • @Thedustdevil

            I’m curious about the source of your image. It looks suspiciously like one of the output modes of a program called LandSerf. (a quite lethargic topology processing java based application)

            Despite it’s seeming lethargic processing, it was quite handy in using Shuttle SRTM data. (if you had the patience)

            I used it mainly back when I actually cared about looking at El Hierro data and was one of the tools I used in generating the ground motion plots I was producing. (The other program was Dplot to interpolate motions across the various data points that Perez got his panties in a wad about) → Using a polysheet process. A better way would have been to use actual Kriging, but I never got that far. (Kriging would have given me a measure of variance plot to go with the fitted surface) Kriging is commonly used in locating mineral and hydrocarbon resources based on field samples.

            I’ve approached Dplots author about adding Kriging to Dplot and he has noted that as a potential future functionality. But for now, you can only get it via other geospatial applications and some Math centric working environments

          • I was using SAGA Gis which is quite fast compared to other programs i’ve used. I really like it.

            GL Edit: Thank You!

            For all: I’ve added links to the various software sites that we are discussing. You never know, someone may be interested in taking this up as a hobby as well. None of these links are paid adverts. Personally, I’m quite a fan of Dplot, in part because of the authors quick response to any issues in the program, and that he is based out of my home state. (In fact, I used to hang out with my friends at the OLD Waterways experiment station in Vicksburg where HydeSoft is based. The US Army Corps of Engineer has part of the Mississippi River basin modeled in exquisite detail in order to predict what the river will do under changing hydrological conditions.)

            With Dplot, as a fully paid up customer, I get the major updates to the program at a hugely discounted rate. (subscription generally lasts two years and you get free updates during that period) A software company that actually takes care of it’s customer base gets my approval. Also the reason I quit using Eureqa’s Formulize program. Those guys blow goats in my opinion. Formulize is a neat program, but the company is quite hostile towards it’s licensed users.

            How I wound up using Dplot → At the time, Micro$oft had no usable 3D scatter plot functionality. Dplot integrated seamlessly with Excel as a plug in, and I had years of experience in Excel (Thank you NATO/OTAN), so it was my spreadsheet of choice.

            In general, Volcano Cafe doesn’t do endorsements or advertising, but I have no problem personally endorsing a company that is up front and square with it’s customers. Likewise, if they are not, they can “pack sand” in my opinion.

            Anything that supports scientific thought or endeavor is okay by me. {also one of the reasons why I’m a moderator here} The other reasons are me being in a completely different time zone with a pretty odd sleep/wake cycle that affords greater active moderation time.

        • It is not uninhabited at the point of origin. A lot of houses are being lost in Leilani. I found an estimate made in the 1990’s of what the impact of a LERZ eruption would be, and it predicted tat the impact would be similar to the early days of Pu’u’O’o, i.e. 180 houses would be lost. Luckily we are still far below that, but the more activity in Leilani itself, the worse the damage.

          • Well I said uninhabited beyond pohoiki road, I also meant that it is currently uninhabited, as in evacuated. Probably could have made that more clear in hindsight though.

    • The latest image has the flow already off camera to the right side of the image. That was fairly quick.

  12. In case you are interested in a vacation in Leilani Estates next month, VRBO has a lot of vacancies:

  13. Have we seen anything in the last few days on the estimated level of the magma in Kilauea?

  14. Does all the darker clouds above the fissures mean there is more toxic gases being released into the atmosphere.

    • Just looking at it, might just be the lighting or lack of direct light on the clouds. May also be darker with the new lava flows burning buildings, vegetation as it moves across screen.

    • It’s not a direct correlation. Darker plumes mean fragmented rock is involved… or the flow found a tire or a house.

    • Side note. Just because the “cloud” in the vicinity of a magma flow is white, that does not mean it’s less lethal. The interaction with water can easily generate HCl. Specifically, if the water contains any sort of salt. Inland, the groundwater has other various chemical salts in it, leading to a mish-mash of whatever constituent chemical gasses are produced from the interaction.

      Just like it’s a bad idea to be downwind of someone burning brush that could contain poison ivy, it’s a bad idea to be in the steam and smoke from magma interaction with the ground and water.

  15. There’s an ash eruptiion at the central cladera now 4pm EDT, 26May 10am HST. It’s visible on the K2 cam and barely visible on the Mauna Loa cam.

    • Is this just coincidence that there is an ash eruption at the central caldera when earlier a darker cloud formation was happening around all the fissures.

      • It should be. They are very far away from each other and also two different types of plumes.

        • Over the last couple of days this same area has been showing large burning lava fountains now it’s mainly white cloud plumes.

          • That vent is fissure 22, which is the furthest west vent that can still be seen from that house. Civil beat left yesterday because the eruption was declining. Fissure 17 might still be active but it is weak.
            All the activity has gone uprift a bit now, but the activity hasn’t decreased at all it just isn’t happening from the same spots as before.

            Explosive eruptions at the summit are sudden steam eruptions that are mostly caused by rockfalls, they really have basically nothing to do with the east rift eruption so yes it is a coincidence that lava flowing through a forest with houses managed to set something on fire at about the same time as another thing that happens a few times a day happens again…

  16. Where has the livestream moved to? It kept (inconveniently) jumping to a new URL every few hours to a day or so. It did so again about 24 hours ago but I’ve had inordinate difficulty finding the new URL this time. Does anyone have the new URL? If so please post it here for the benefit of us all.

    • Dunno if it’s actually live, the birds tend to make me think it’s morning there. (Should be near or after sunset there now) → Nope, this is old. 21st video. And I’m not gonna link CNN, those guys are ass monkeys.

    • Almost 10 square km in 10 days. The same size as 1960 and not much smaller than 1955 (but that was spread out over several flow fields).

    • The lava fountains on this fissure have become active again.

      • I dont think that one ever stopped, it just stopped fountaining. It is not the main vent anymore though with what is happening further up.

  17. https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=11tCiLa42FId7GMtg-4UkEoAI9QozTVFD&ll=19.461376799726818%2C-154.89482467020036&z=15

    This is a really well made updating map.
    It is interesting that apparently some of the lava in leilani has managed to back up high enough to flow into the south topographical drain. Apparently it is flowing into one of the craters there although there arent any pictures of it. There is a massive lava lake there now that is waiting to break through the dam…
    Compare to this picture I saved when fissure 8 first opened when the activity was minor:

    If someone is able to film from the top of pu’u kaliu they would have the ultimate view of this eruption.
    I wonder if there is a limit to how many images HVO can upload at once, because a lot of the stuff mentioned in their updates seems to go without a picture.

    • https://www.facebook.com/harry.durgin.1

      This guy is also making timelapses of the webcam and sometimes on-location videos. The vent in leilani is fountaining a lot higher now, its actually jetting out of the vents. Not very high still but it is a big increase from the more dome-like fountains yesterday.
      I think any doubts over whether this will be a big eruption have been settled, if you look at the maps the lava field is bigger than both of the 1955 flows and it is about the same as 1960. If the flow goes to the north or a new vent opens on the highway then the area will get way bigger very quickly too.

      • VolcanoYT also create (daily I think) timelapses of the USGS PG and crater cams.

        This is the latest:


        Go to their main page on youtube, look up the playlist timelapses; maybe you need to expand it because there are many., The playlist related to Kilauea is where all of them are

  18. I think PGV is getting invaded by lava right now, there is a massive a’a flow spreading out over that area. Some of it is going out into the open field to the right but a lot of it is just going towards the webcam and PGV.

    The glow on the webcam is about the brightest I have ever seen it get, basically the entire middle of the webcam is white and it looks like the activity has increased again in the last hour or so.

  19. “Fissure 7 activity has increased overnight, producing a large spatter rampart over 100 feet tall from fountains reaching 150-200 feet into the night sky. The fountains feed a perched pāhoehoe flow 20-40 feet thick.”

    From HVO about 3 hours ago.

    60 meter lava fountains, they are getting bigger, and building a big cone on top of the already raised area. The webcam glow looks like a picture of the sun right now. If this continues this way it will be high fountaining soon. Would be awesome if HVO took more pictures yesterday.
    I think that somehow the majority of the lava has found a way to go south still, as the channel is clearly going in that direction more. HVO reported that the lava is flowing (‘cascading’ in their own word) into pawai crater, which is the most east of the 4 older craters south of the fissure. Given the volume of lava I wouldn’t be surprised if it has already filled it.

    • If fissures 7 and 21 go on like this for some time then the flow will spread over the flat area north of the fissures and launch branches of the flow in several directions. We might see lava flowing towards the 1840 ocean entry but also at multiple locations towards south. There is even the posibilty of flows going into Kapoho. The flows would have really large to see this happening.

  20. Pawai and Puulena craters look like they can hold a combined volume of about 5.5 million cubic meters, assuming 1/3 volume of spheres with average radii of about 90 and 150 metres.

    • At the rate things are going that would have taken a anywhere from half an hour to 10 hours, but probably somewhere around 4-5 hours. The report of lava filling the crater was about 13 hours ago so pawai crater is likely filled completely and overflowing and puulena crater about at least 3/4 way (its lowest point is to the east so it wont overflow from lava flowing into it from that direction). I think the lava could have just flowed into the existing channel from fissure 6 though and the cascade might have been brief. This flow is fed mostly by fissure 7, the current biggest fissure, while the flow going northeast is fed by fissure 21 which is apparently declining though far from dead.

      I think that fissure 22 (the one in the livestreams) is still very much alive but not fountaining and along with fissures 19, 15 and 6 are still feeding active ocean entries, and fissure 17 is still hanging on barely with strombolian activity but no lava flow (probably still erupting andesite and building its cinder cone, HVO should really take a look at it), so activity is still increasing really.
      Will be interesting to see the pictures in the morning.

  21. But is Pawai being filled by tha lava from 21 and 7 or by the lava coming out from fissures 13 and 6? I’m also confused about which is Pawai crater because in arcgis the big long one is shown to be Pawai but in local maps the big one is Puulena and the one inmediately east is Pawai.

    • I think pawai is the east end of the combined crater, with the west side of that being puulena and the single crater to the west is kahuwai. The north east side of that long crater is really the only spot the lava can flow into because it would have to flow uphill to go into any of the others. The single crater offset to the south from there maybe doesnt have a name for some reason but would be temporarily shielded by the other craters so I dont think they are talking about that one, maybe it is south pawai or something like that with the other one being north pawai.

      Basically I think pawai and puulena are technically one crater but have different names. When HVO updates the map we will see what happened.

        • Interesting, maybe HVO got the crater wrong? Or the lava from fissure 7 flowed into the existing lava channel to the ocean from fissure 6 and filled it so much that it overflowed a bit and some of that went into that crater (the one marked pawai on your map but unnamed on the main one).

          I find it interesting how fissure 7 is supposedly well within the northern drainage but basically ignored that fact and went east then south despite another overflow going north which would seem to be the downhill option. I guess that lava lake burst happened but it occurred on the southern side and prevented that lava going anywhere but east.

          • Being Leilani and the area north of Leilani so flat and sitting on the top of the rift the flow has many different possible paths to follow.

            It does seem that the lava is flowing east from the 21 fissure area.

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