The majestic volcanoes of Kyushu, Japan – Part I -Sakurajima and Kirishima

Kyushu, the third largest island in Japan, considered the cradle of the japanese culture, is also a natural treasure and most of the wonders you can find there are volcanic spots. Some of the most active volcanoes in Asia lie here, and the island is also famous for the wonderful thermal areas.

A trip around Kyushu allowed me to visit a good amount of amazing active volcanoes including Sakurajima, Aso caldera, Kirishima Volcanic Range and Unzen, all of them in my “must-do list” for years.

When approaching by flight to Kagoshima airport, the majestic silhouette of Sakurajima volcano appears towering the landscape over the southern area of Kyushu, often covered by thick clouds. I was finally lucky enough to arrive when the clouds were starting to leave, so Sakurajima summit cleared up showing all its beauty. Once an island, Sakurajima is now part of the Osumi Peninsula in the main island due to the piece of land added after the huge lava flow in 1914.

Sakurajima as seen from the airplane

Sakurajima is a composite volcano located inside Aira Caldera (formed around 22.000 years ago after a huge Plinian eruption) and now it’s considered one of the most active volcanoes on earth due to its constant activity based on strombolian and vulcanian activity as well as frequent ash emmisions. More than 500.000 people live in the Kagoshima Bay area near the volcano, with an elevated risk in case of a major eruption, and for that reason it was listed on the Decade Volcano Project which identifies the main volcanic hazards for the population.

Sakurajima Volcano Hazard Map – (Source: City of Kagoshima)

There are several observatories and lookouts around the island and a road trip is perfect to enjoy magnificent views of the volcano. If starting the route westward in a clockwise direction the first viewing point is the Arimura Lava Observatory located on top of a lava hill formed after the big eruption that took place in 1912. On a clear day the views of the whole volcanic complex are impressive. Here you can see andesite and rhyolite lavas surrounded by a dense and beautiful vegetation (mostly pines) and also the smoking Minamidake south crater.

Sakurajima as seen from Arimura Observatory

The pines growing on the lava fields

Following the road to the west we can find the Sakurajima International Volcanic Sabo Center, where the volcano is always monitorized by several devices including cameras and a wide range of sensors. There’s also an exhibition inside the building showing how the volcanic eruptions affect the human life and how to mitigate the disasters caused by the volcanic activity. Although the last destructive eruption was in 1946, the volcano is still affecting the life of the locals, being the ash falls and the mud flows some of the most negative consequences. In 1974, 8 people were killed by a huge lahar and more recently in 2006 several volcanic bombs destroyed roofs and buildings with 5 people injured. A good number of concrete shelters were built around the island and specific plans of evacuation were issued to prevent the population from being injured or even killed if a major eruption occurs, and the government decided to build channels to control the frequent mud-flows as they race down the slopes of Sakurajima volcano out to sea.

Debris-flow channels

Driving to the interior of the island we can find the Yunohira Observatory, the place where you can come closest to the vent of Sakurajima. From there you can obtain wonderful views of the inactive Kitadake crater summit, panoramic views of Kagoshima Bay and the city and on a clear day you can see as far as Satsuma Peninsula, where the perfect cone of Kaimondake volcano rises.

The impressive walls near Kitadake crater

In the eastern side of the island we find the best overlooking points of Showa crater, the most active one at Sakurajima, erupting almost daily. Although I was not lucky enough to witness an eruption, I was hypnotized by the degassing Showa crater and the breathtaking scenery in the surroundings…The eruptions at Showa crater are characterized by vulcanian explosions followed by ash falls, and its famous electrostatic charges, creating an amazing spectacles specially at night.

Degassing activity at Showa crater

Showa crater from the eastern road

Following the road to the southeast part of Sakurajima we find the iconic Kurokami Buried Torii. Once a 3-meter high shrine gate, it was covered by the lava flows right after the massive eruption in 1914 and nowadays only its top is visible. The locals decided to leave it buried as a reminder of Sakurajima’s enormous power.

Buried Torii at Kurokami

Not far from Sakurajima, heading up north, lies one of the most spectacular National Parks in Japan, Kirishima, formed by a huge Quarternary volcanic range consisting of cinder cones, stratovolcanoes and several maars, most of them andesite volcanoes. Hiking the Kirishima Ridge Trail is the perfect way to visit the highlights of the Park following the perfectly marked tracks between points.

Kirishima hiking map

I decided to start from the south, visiting first the wonderful Onami crater Lake, one of the largest maars at Kirishima, the highest lake in Japan and also one of the most spectacular places in the National Park. During the late-autumn the frosty landscapes make a fantastic contrast with the light-blue colored lake. Hiking around the lake gives the opportunity of enjoying magnificent views of almost the whole range with the giants surrounding you: Shinmoedake, Karakunidake and Takachiho no Mine volcanoes. At the beginning of March 2018, Shinmoedake volcano came back to life with several explosions after being calmed since the last eruption in 2011.

Onami-ike crater lake

The huge Shinmoedake crater

Takachiho no Mine volcano

From Onami Lake the route continues northbound to Ebino Kogen mountain village, and from there, shadowed by the mighty Karakuni-dake volcano (the highest point in Kirishima with its 1.700 m. high) the trail reaches the 3 ponds area: Byakushi, Rokkannon-Miike and Fudo. These 3 maars, surrounded by dense cedar and pine forests are also a wildlife refuge as several species find their habitat here, including deers, abundant birdlife and also rare sights as the japanese badger (I had a sudden encounter with this beautiful animal)

Karakuni-dake volcano, Kirishima’s highest peak

The crater of Karakuni-dake stratovolcano has a diameter of about 800 m. and a depth of 300 m. Hiking close the crater was restricted due to the unstable situation on the neighbour volcanoes, so unfortunately I couldn’t reach the summit. It is said that you can see the Korean Peninsula from up there.

Rokkannon-Miike Pond and Koshikidake volcano in the background

The next stop was Mount Ioyama (sulphur mountain in japanese). This small and unknown volcano is the youngest one of the Kirishima Range and recently erupted on 19th april 2018 after being dormant since 1768 (see video below).

What I found there was a strong fumarolic activity and a large field of sulphur deposits, creating an otherworldly landscape surrounded by snow. This area was mined till 1962 and it’s covered with andesite gravel and sulphur rocks. The volcano started to be monitorized in 2013 after an increase of the activity raising to level 2 the danger around the crater.

Sulphur deposits at Mount Ioyama

Ioyama (the sulphur mountain), the youngest volcano in Kirishima Range

Before leaving Kirishima, on the way to Maruo Falls the road trip provides with amazing views over Kagoshima Bay, with Sakurajima smoking on the distance and Kaimondake’s perfecto cone on the left side. The massive Aira Caldera can be clearly visible from this point.

Sakurajima as seen from Kirishima

And finally Maruo Falls, a really beautiful waterfalls surrounded by oblique basalt columns framed on spectacular autumn colors…

Maruo Falls

The basaltic beauty of Maruo Falls

NEXT POST TO COME: The majestic volcanoes of Kyushu, Japan – Part II – Aso – Unzen

116 thoughts on “The majestic volcanoes of Kyushu, Japan – Part I -Sakurajima and Kirishima

  1. Just realised, today is the 10th anniversary of the Chaiten eruption!

    • wasn’t that one with a 9000 or so hiatus, makes one think of what is possible

      • What was believed to be 9000 years was actually 370, its previous eruption was in around 1640.

  2. Reading Hawaii news now website I saw this quote that I have not seen mentioned on the HVO site.

    “When is the last time lava threatened Puna?
    In 2014, lava threatened Pahoa for weeks, destroying several structures and closing roads. …..

    But Hawaiian Volcano Observatory experts say the seismic activity being seen from this event is similar to what preceded a 1955 eruption of Kilauea. That eruption started in February 1955. And over a three-month period, 24 volcanic vents opened and lava covered 3,900 acres of land.”


    • The difference is that Pu’u’O’o has been providing magma with an exit for the past 30 years. This will have kept the pressure down.

      In the mean time, now that 61-G has dried up, this seems to be the first time that Kilauea isn’t erupting for quite a few years!

      • Technically kilauea is still erupting because there is still a lot of lava in the overlook crater that is exposed to the atmosphere, it’s really not going down very fast at all despite the strong deflation as of yesterday. I wonder what tat means? Maybe the whole summit is slowly sinking as it drains into the east rift, and is pushing a bit of magma into the lake causing it to appear as though it isn’t sinking.

        If (probably when) an eruption starts in lower puna it probably isn’t going to involve a lot of huge lava fountains or anything like that, but the eruption would very likely be at least as intense as the kamoamoa fissure in 2011, only it would probably last a lot longer than 4 days.
        Magma still flows into the rift, and the easiest way for it to escape would be by going up, and while an eruption might not start immediately, the dyke will remain a pathway for new magma and so when the pressure starts to increase again it would break out. The 1924 intrusion remained hot enough for new magma in the 1950s to reach the lower rift and erupt, that dyke was 31 years old at that time and yet it was able to erupt anyway. The 1955 activity similarly kept the rift open for another even bigger eruption to happen there in 1960.
        I have read a paper that says the 1977 magma was likely emplaced in 1955 and that an intrusion from the summit in that year was able to reach it and make it erupt.
        One way or another there will be an eruption in lower puna at some point in the near future, the chances are that it will happen soon though as there is a very established conduit in place for most of the way already.

        What an unexpected turn of events this really is. Even a volcano that has millions of people see it every day can do things suddenly and in ways no one would have predicted. Even in hindsight I can’t think of any reason why his intrusion would actually happen, although it is probably the only thing I can think of that could realistically end the eruptions at pu’u o’o in a meaningful way.

  3. This was published by USGS: a map of ground deformation from Sentinel satellite data. It shows where the main magma was stored that went into the east rift, and it wasn’t underneath Pu’u’o’o but just to the west of it.

    • That is the bit of the rift zone that the 1975 earthquake opened up. My guess is that mauna ulu formed a open conduit to the summit, and that in 1975 that conduit allowed magma to easily intrude into the voids left by the quake. Eventually there was enough stored magma that in 1982 a new intrusion pushed everything out and just after the new year started it erupted, and continued up to now. My guess, which seems to be supported by that picture, is that this whole area is what fed this intrusion, and that maybe now the next centre of eruptions for the next few years will be in lower puna. In effect it also means that pu’u o’o is ultimately fed through the same system as mauna ulu and is a result of magma stored after the 1975 quake being pushed into erupting, essentially like a second magma chamber in the upper mid rift zone.

      Pu’u o’o might remain a weak point in this system for a long time though, s a possible revival in the future isn’t impossible even if it is several years from now. It might be the first polygenetic flank vent of kilauea.

      • We know from the DI events that there was a continuous flow between Kilauea and Pu’u’O’o. I don’t think there was an intermediate magma chamber involved.

        • No I mean that there was a lot of magma stored between mauna ulu and napau crater, which is evident by the fact that there were almost no eruptions on the east rift between the 1975 earthquake and the start of the current eruption, and it is believed that this was caused by magma filling in the voids caused by the south flank slipping about 10 meters towards the sea. The area isn’t really a magma chamber as such but more of a dyke complex that all have some connection and feed towards pu’u o’o. Probably every intrusion in the east rift that has happened since 1975 has been involved in the eruption at pu’u o’o in some way.
          When this void area was filled, the eruption started in 1983, and has been basically continuous since 1986. The reason there is an open conduit is because the rift is basically filled with magma from the summit to napau crater, and from mauna ulu to pu’u o’o there was magma at a shallower depth and more spread out. The area in question experienced a very tiny eruption in 2007, with new steaming cracks on mauna ulu and kane nui o hamo, with one of these emitting a tiny amount of lava for a few hours in the forest.
          Eventually as the floor of pu’u o’o crater got too high the pressure of the magma forced a new dyke down the rift and the conduit drained, which caused deflation of the upper rift zone. The conduit was deeper underground at mauna ulu and makaopuhi crater than at pu’u o’o so the deflation is more obvious. The depth underground is probably also why the 2007 eruption was very tiny, the magma couldn’t quite make it.

          Now that the summit is deflating there is even more magma entering the rift so the chance of an eruption is probably just as high as before even though the dyke seems to have stopped advancing. The fact that there are ground cracks shows that the dyke is shallow, probably well under 1 km deep at that point.
          As I write this the lava lake has dropped very significantly, probably over 40 meters now and still going. Not as fast as in 2011 but that might change soon.

          What is interesting is that the tiny eruption on the west flank of pu’u o’o seems to be a rift zone fault rather than a lateral intrusion from the magma body under pu’u o’o, even though it is right next to the august 2011 vents that were fed that way from pu’u o’o. It seems like this event started as a repeat of the 2011 collapse and uprift fissures, but the pressure was too much and a new intrusion happened downrift and starved the new fissure of magma just as it started. I would say that it was a failed eruption but it technically did erupt, even if it was probably for less than an half an hour. I guess we wont know if the intrusion started first or if the west flank fissure started before it as it all happened at night under clouds. I’m sure the opening of any sort of vent in lower puna wont go unnoticed for long though.

    • This reminds me of the collapse of Dolomieu Crater atop Piton de la Fournaise back in April ’07. Wonder what’ll happen next? Maybe a repeat of the 1960 Kapoho eruption (referred to as the “Puna” eruption in the previous article to this on this site – don’t ask me why)???

  4. I also have a question about the situation at ioyama. The recent eruptions are hydrothermal but I remember reading a news article last year about the alert for ioyama being raised due to inflation and earthquakes, which would indicate that magma is in the area? Shinmoedake erupted some lava earlier this year so the possibility of a similar eruption at ioyama is there, though it might be a bit more destructive given that it would probably destroy all the infrastructure around it.

    The magma at kirishma is interesting, it is andesite but it is quite fluid compared to the andesite at most other volcanoes, it is similar to the lava erupted at agung last year, and seems not to form actual lava domes but lava pancakes that are flat and would probably flow fairly easily on a slope. Is it hotter than normal andesite?

    I think sakurajima started erupting some of this sort of fluid magma last year too, though it seems to have stopped now and gone back to its old ways.

  5. Does anyone have any thoughts about the new swarm of earthquakes near Volcano Enmedio between Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

    Latest statement from IGN:

    ”03-05-2018 (5:50 PM) Information related to the seismic series between Tenerife and Gran Canaria that began on April 29.
    Seismic activity is still detected in the form of low magnitude earthquakes, located between the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Up to this moment and since Sunday, April 29, 262 earthquakes have been detected, of which 81 have been located. Work continues on the location of the smaller earthquakes.

    The epicentral distribution of the earthquakes runs in an NNE-SSW alignment, with an approximate length of 30 km, which could be due to the high degree of uncertainty in the location of low magnitude events. Once the series is finished, joint localization techniques can be applied to improve the location.

    The analysis of the waveform of the earthquakes shows a high degree of correlation, which reveals their common origin. The parameter b of the Gutenber-Richter law has been calculated for the series, which until now reaches a value of 1.35 ± 0.14, which corresponds to a swarm-type series, with a magnitude of completeness of 1 , 3 mbLg. The elastic energy released in the form of earthquakes until this moment in the area is 1.66 × 109 J, which is approximately equivalent in total to the energy released by a single earthquake of magnitude 3.0 mbLg.”

    More information about the seismicity located on the island of Tenerife in:

  6. Lovely post and also hanks to the very informative posts and comments about Hawaii.

    This post finally convinced me to share my video about the Ebino area, so you can see a bit more of the area around Ioyama. However, I only encountered a lot of fog. Still, you can see the crater lake closest to Ioyama, around 1:38 two shots from Ioyama then (July 2015 exactly the day when they raised an alert I learned later)) the very foggy crater rim after the lost deer is Mt. Karakuni which I climbed in vain to have glorious view at Shinmoe- Dake. Still it was a beautiful area and hike.

    Normally I credit the artists in the video, however this was not really intended at first for me to share, so it lacks that.

    But, the msic is by Riyuichi Sakamoto and Fennesz (if you like Biosphere I can provide you witha differnt link and edit 😉 )

  7. Watching the earthquakes and I am looking at an area near highway 130 and Kamaili road. The quakes from around Middle road (north west of the intersection) towards the south east and just over Highway 130 are all rather shallow compared to others around it. Maybe the lava or maybe the terrain. The area up near little road is around 1200 feet in elevation, Where just down Kamaili road to the south east the elevation is 420 feet.

    Seeing things maybe?

    • Using the Wells-Coopersmith formulas, and ASSUMING normal mode faulting, the Mag 4.6 yields a rupture displacement of .02 to .03 meters, a subsurface rupture length of 2.63 km, and a down-dip rupture width of 2.95 km.

      That provides about 155,170 to 232,755 m³ of additional space to fill.

      Assume → ALWAYS be careful when assuming something. In this case, normal mode faulting would be in keeping with the ongoing activity since a dike has to push the two sides apart in order to make space for the magma.

      • And if EMSC-CSEM is the more accurate quake size…

        826,152 to 1,239,228 m³ additional space to fill with magma.

    • According to Gurgle Earth, it was down-slope from Puʻu ʻŌʻō, about 3.7 km from the coast.

      If this dike can complete a path to the sea via this route, it should take some pressure off of the system trying to move up the NE rift by providing an alternate flow path. The surface at this point is only 240 metes elevation if it breaches here… and Leilani Estates are at 200 to 235 meters elevation. It’s gonna be a race to see which path is favored.

      • The quake was much deeper than the crater os it was probably magma chamber related, rather than the crater wall.

        The plot shows the change in tilt at Pu’u’O’o due to the earthquake: +3 microradians. The quake was 4 km south of the tilt measurement. That means the amount of up/down to the quake was 4 km times 3 microradians is about 1cm. That is a minimum, as it assumes there is no up/down at the crater itself. It agrees pretty well with Lurking’s estimate of 2-3 cm.

        • A dyke won’t intrude south from pu’u o’o, the rift faults extend all the way to the bottom of kilauea, so the fractures in the south flank are entirely non-volcanic and are only seismic faults. It is like trying to cut against the grain of some wood, vs going with the grain. Going south from pu’u o’o is against the grain, going east is along the grain, it is not surprising which one happened.
          If the easiest path for magma to take was a radial vent south of pu’u o’o, it would have done it already, probably all the way back in 1986 or even in 1983.
          This earthquake was a tectonic earthquake related to the south flank slipping at the base of the volcano, like the 1868 or 1975 quakes but smaller.

          Mauna Loa has radial vents because it is too big to slide only along its rift zones, and kilauea stops it sliding that way for the most part, so the stress field is more circular at the summit. 200,000 years ago mauna loa probably looked similar to kilauea now, being flat and with south east movement causing rift zones to be the dominant areas of eruption. Then kilauea started getting bigger and preventing mauna loas east rift from sliding, which is why that rift is shorter. The amount of magma being erupted has also very slowly decreased and so the lava doesn’t flow as far as before and builds the shield higher. Mauna Loa is probably near the end of its shield building stage.
          Kilauea isn’t tall enough for this yet, and there is nothing stopping it from sliding south either. When loihi gets bigger then kilauea will likely become more radial towards its summit, and it might abandon its southwest rift.

          • “This earthquake was a tectonic earthquake related to the south flank slipping at the base of the volcano, like the 1868 or 1975 quakes but smaller.”

            Do you have a link to the focal mechanism plot? I haven’t found one yet, but it would be the deciding factor in what actually happened.

          • For anyone wondering what I am yammering about… “1st” motions of seismic signals are used to determine the failure mode of the rock where the quake occurred.

            Here is a sample from figure 1.1-7 from An Introduction to
            Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure
            , Stein-Wysession. (2003) Blackwell Publishing Ltd, illustrating a strike-slip quake. The 1st motions of the various seismic signals tell you if you are in a compression or dilation quadrant of the quake.

            Not all quakes get a focal mechanism plot at USGS. Usually the stronger or more interesting quakes only. What I was specifically looking for, is that the focal mechanism tell you if it was a normal mode quake, where the two sides move apart, or a strike-slip or reverse mode quake. Reverse faulting are generally from thrust faults where the two sides are pushed towards each other. Another item in the focal mechanism data is the orientation of the fault plane and occasionally, the dip angle. Unfortunately, this quake still has not gotten a focal mechanism plot and I just scoured the usual source with so luck. I was able to find a few waveform plots that showed positive 1st motions, but without full coverage of all the quadrants, I have nothing to compare it with.

            If turtlebirdman is correct, the fault plane should be within a few degrees of the rift axis. If I am correct, the fault plane would be more tangential to the rift axis.

  8. It appears that ground shaking from the earthquake caused rockfalls in the Puu Oo crater on Kilauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone, which resulted in a short-lived plume of reddish ash rising above the cone,” said Tina Neal, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s chief scientist in a statement.

    The quake was centered about 4.3-miles deep on the south flank of Kilauea. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says the earthquake was not strong enough to trigger a tsunami.

    Earthquakes in the region have been happening consistently since the Puu Oo crater collapsed on Monday.

  9. Not to rain on a parade, but every time I hear ‘this resembles 1955’ I keep thinking ‘this resembles 1924, too’. I want to see red rock as much as the next guy, but I’ve already come up with several scenarios…1. (the one I want) fissure eruption crossing the coastline–something for everyone. 2. Degassed quiet outflow, AKA East Kupianaha. 3. Pu’u o O’o reoccupied and back to the usual. 4. Every system collapses, Outlook vent choked with debris, O’o dies, no eruption anywhere, 1934-1952 all over again.

    Have to wait until the slug of summit magma moves past O’o–if it does, the chance for a Highway 130 eruption goes up.

    • The ironic thing about what you said is that a significant part of the 1955 eruption was from the 1924 intrusion.
      As I have said before in other comments, there appear to be very few truly failed eruptions at kilauea, the 1955 eruption was effectively just a very delayed 1924 eruption, and this scenario applies to the current one too. There might not be an eruption now, but the dyke is going to remain molten for a very long time and if magma keeps flowing into the rift zone to go to pu’u o’o it will be pressurising the magma in the lower rift zone and eventually cause it to break out. This will likely be within a year if the conduit stays open, which it is at this time with the summit draining.
      This is probably why the 1960 eruption happened very far down the rift too, the 1959 summit magma pushed down the 1955 conduit and caused an eruption of residual 1955 magma with some new stuff towards the end.

  10. HVO just sent out an update confirming an eruption has started IN the Leilani Estates subdivision and that evacuations are in progress.

  11. I cant say I am surprised that an eruption is happening, but I thought it would have started with a bit more warning. I guess it was very lucky that it started slowly and not right under someones house.
    I think you can see it on the lower east rift webcam but that might just be steam or smoke from a chimney. It says the camera is near kapoho (probably on kapoho crater) but there wasn’t any steam or smoke in that spot before. maybe another eruption is about to start there?

    • It is apparently not degassed magma either. Most of it seems to have not been at the surface before, which would be consistent with where the major deformation was in the upper rift zone.

      I watched the 1955 eruption video and a lot of the start looked like this eruption, not really intense or vigorous, but often happening in places that are where you wouldnt expect to see an eruption – like a field, or behind someones house… Just like right now…

  12. From the drone footage, the erupting fissure is about 200 meters long, with spatter to about 20 meters, although some fragments and blasts go considerably higher.
    Smoke is issuing just a few meters from the nearest houses.

  13. This also shows how fire resistant ohia trees are, there is not really any fire outside of where there is contact with the lava.

    I think the eruption is in a little triangle of land between mohala street and leilani avenue. One of the houses on the drone footage looks the same as the one in that bit of land.

    • If it’s the house with the round roof and the two outlier buildings, that one is on top of what appears to be an ancient cone-row.

      • ‘Ancient’ is probably about 500 years here, maybe it is from 1790?

        • Kahuwai, Puulena Craters, see post below from Gurgle Urff with the location. My betting was the 1790 eruption, but I’ve not had chance to read through the papers yet.

          • I remember reading on the old HVO website that those craters were the result of more explosive eruptions about 700 years ago, they are not collapse pit craters like the ones on the upper rift. The 1790 eruptions were apparently in this area though and made the lava tree molds at lava tree state monument – which is just a bit north of the recent fissure.
            The big cone near Leilani estates is pu’u kaliu, which is slightly younger (I think), and was formed in a significant eruption probably similar to the 1960 eruption.

            The lower east rift webcam might be on the side of kapoho crater. which isn’t especially close to the recent fissure so I think those lights in the webcam are house lights. Pu’u o’o is in the top right corner of the webcam, visible as the broad shield at the top. This gives a reference for how far this dyke actually got.

  14. Is it just me, or is Halema‘uma‘u getting a bit “ashy”?

    • parts of the side of the vent are collapsing into the lake, causing minor explosions as the lake degasses explosively. The lake is slowly draining out into the rift zone and lowering. I dont think theres any risk of an explosive eruption though as the bottom of the overlook crater is way above the water table.

      Most likely the overlook crater will drain out but probably refill at some point later this year. Pu’u o’o might be over though, this is a really big change in the eruption and magma now has an outlet far beyond pu’u o’o. This recent eruption in Leilani estates is probably going to be the first of many over the next months.

      • Considering the elevation difference between the summit, Pu’u O’o and the new fissure at Leilani, I’m surprised at the lack of vigour in the new eruption.
        Just the hydrostatic pressure alone would be immense.

        There must still be some serious kink in the hose somewhere, so this is probably just the beginning of something bigger.
        I would not be surprised if there are further breakouts uprift from Leilani in the not too distant future.

  15. Here’s the rough plot of the fissure at the time of the drone footage. It’s located just to the North of the Kahuwai, Puulena Craters. I’m not sure of the eruptive history of these features as I’ve yet to have my caffeine wake up call to enable me to read through the published papers…

    • The latest from HVO is that the fissure erupted for less than 2 hours before the eruption ended at 6:30pm Hawaii time

      • This activity is also similar to the 1955 eruption. There were a number of small fissures over the course of a week before more substantial activity occured. I would very much doubt that all of this activity is going to culminate with a 1.5 hour eruption, more is to come.

        HVO are continuously operating in the area right now, so if a new eruption happens we will know about it within minutes. There are also a lot of people with drones that can probably fly them over from outside the evacuated area, which might report an eruption even before HVO does.

  16. Question… mainly for Albert or Carl.

    Hydrostatic head is a level of pressure for a column of water. What is the correct term for a low viscosity column of magma? Lithostatic head?

  17. Link removed as the image couldn’t load. There’s already a graphic on the site estimating the fissure location and length.

    – Admin

  18. I think a new fissure opened recently. There is a strong glow on the webcam overlooking the lower east rift. The eruption earlier was not visible on the webcam as far as I know so this might be in a different location a bit further down. I might be wrong though about the location of the last fissure, it happened in the day so there was no visible glow.



      This guy is on the scene and was one of the first to spot the original fissure. Whether he is actually meant to be there is another matter, but he is and has confirmed that another fissure started and is live streaming it. It is also in Leilani estates but on a different street on the other side of the subdivision.

      Looks at least as strong as the previous one, though that could be because it is at night so the incandescence of the lava is obvious. Lava fountaining above the trees right now.

      • The live feed got pulled, looks like he got kicked out!

        • Yeah probably, or he went to bed (it is 2:04 in Hilo right now). Still interesting though, I dont know if HVO operates at night so we might have missed this otherwise.

  19. From Hawaii county civil defense.

    This is a Civil Defense update for Friday May 4, 2018 at 2 AM.

    Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirms a volcanic eruption in Leilani Subdivision in the Puna District.

    Active fountaining is occurring at this time within the Leilani Subdivision, all occupants are ordered to evacuate immediately.

    Police, Fire and County agencies along with the National Guard are assisting with evacuation.

  20. Just using Google earth it looks like the second event was around 80 – 100 feet higher in elevation than the first.

    • I think that sort of difference is not that important when the dyke is probably about 300 meters deep on average under that area. The dyke is probably about 100 meters below sea level, which would make it about 1km deep at pu’u o’o but if the dyke gets to Kapoho it would only be 100 meters deep or so (it probably isn’t going to get quite that far now though, with new vents opening).
      It probably broke out where it did because this is likely the point where the rock wasn’t able to contain it anymore, although there are cracks further downrift so eruptions there are possible too. With two fissures in 24 hours it looks like this activity isn’t going to be ending any time soon, and a repeat of the 1955 eruptions is looking like the most likely scenario. What is interesting is that despite a completely open system venting out the volcanic gas right at the summit for the last 10 years, and another open vent on the east rift that has been venting the remainder, this lava is clearly not degassed at all, if anything it looks even a bit more gas rich than the 2011 fissure.
      50 meter high lava fountains apparently in this fissure, which is a fair bit more than the last one, and probably a higher lava output which likely means lava flows beyond the vent area and lost property.

      Maybe the 500 meter tall fountains of the 1960 eruption aren’t entirely out of the question after all but probably not from this fissure, that sort of major activity is for a slightly later date when the conduit is a bit more established, maybe in a week or two. I would be quite interested to see a new cinder cone forming personally, and finally have a named hill that is younger than me 😉

  21. bali going off Agung, click on the hawaii story and there is a link below

  22. Twenty five years ago I’d be sitting next to my VCR right now, all ready to hit record the moment the news showed anything at all with bright orange in it. Then I’d watch that same four seconds of footage a hundred times in the next ten minutes.

    Modern instant coverage would’ve blown my mind.

    So I ought to be happy that I’ve seen what I have since last night. Instead, I’m frustrated that there’s only one drone video out there so far, and that Ikaiki hasn’t posted anything on FB for a whole hour now.

    Dang impatient, ingrateful me.

    • There will be more footage, its hard to get footage of an event that starts in the middle of the night because it is dark. This eruption might still be going in the morning with the rate it is erupting now, and you can bet everyone will be trying to get some footage.
      This is a once in 50 years event, and there is good reason to think this recent activity is only the start, so there will be a lot more lava to come. 1955 lasted almost 3 months, its first stages were similar to the activity now, and after two weeks or so there were established vents erupting lava to heights of 250 meters in some cases, and vents erupted at various places from heiheiahulu down to kapoho, including near where these vents are active now.
      1960 was ‘only’ 1 month but the amount of lava erupted in that time was exceptional, it looked like a ruptured fire hydrant in all honesty. What we have seen so far might be the calm before the storm.

  23. Daily mail has a good photo of the collapsed floor of Puu oo.

      • It’s not, the image is on HVO’s website. I almost removed the daily fail link and replace it with the HVO one just so people didn’t have to visit their hatred filled website.

  24. I just checked the webcam again after not seeing any glow for a while, and I think that was just because of cloud cover as there is a strong glow still. Apparently the fissure started about 2-3 hours ago so already doing better than the last one, and it looks like there was an actual lava flow associated with this one as well. My guess is that there will be at least a few more of these sorts of eruptions before magma either breaks out a bit further down or starts building a cinder cone in leilani estates. If it forms a bigger vent and significant lava flow in the estate, the line of steepest descent is actually to the north and right behind pahoa, so that area is at risk too even if an eruption wont actually happen directly in those areas.

    Prior to this past week I would have assumed that eruptions in lower puna were actually unlikely for the forseable future because pu’u o’o would continue to act as an easy release for any magma in the volcano. Well I guess I was very wrong in my assumption… However I do remember saying that the least likely but not impossible scenario of what is happening at pu’u o’o would be an intrusion into the lower rift zone and an eruption there, not really being serious but in the end I guess it was my first eruption prediction 🙂

    “Probably the most unlikely scenario but also the most dangerous would be a fissure eruption downrift of pu’u o’o. Not like the small ones there in 2007 and 1986-1992, but something akin to the 2011 outbreak, or maybe a black swan event similar to the initial fissure in 1983 (or on a black hole swan level something similar to the 1955 eruption…).”
    -My comment on the 18th of April.

    I dont mean to brag but… 😉

    • I’m not sure this would count as a Black Swan, even a 1955 type event would be within normal parameters for this Volcano.

      • No, not a swan at all. Maybe a swan at a personal level to some. But the high possibility of this sort of event was known about long ago.

  25. Interesting personal story Re: the sound, from Hawaii:

    “We live in Leilani Estates, about six blocks away from the eruption.

    We were evacuated a couple of hours ago and we are now with friends.

    Within about half an hour of the eruption, it was on social media, so me and my daughter went down to look at it. You could hear and feel the eruption a good half a mile away, and the closer you got, the more you could feel it.

    It was like when someone plays the bass really heavy, and you can feel the bass – you could really feel the power and the lava – the colour was unbelievable, and the sound was unbelievable.

    It sounds very explosive… It’s spitting out as hard as it can. It’s not so much what you hear, it’s what you feel.”

  26. Unconfirmed reports are that a 3rd fissure has now started erupting nearby to the second fissure which started overnight.

  27. Confirmation by HVO that there is no activity at Puuoo.

  28. These changes to activity are very interesting. While unlikely, what would accompany a flank collapse of either Kilauea or Mauna Loa?

    It appears Mauna Loa in particular is capable of abrupt collapses and its current appearance may even suggest it is due.

    Would the experts who run this site be able to do a post explaining any potential re: ^ and how it may occur? 🙂

    • Well… from a measured point of view, the general idea is that the Lohi seamount is anchoring the toe of the Hilina Pali slump, preventing a catastrophic collapse. While it is true that Hawaiian volcanoes are quite prone to mass wasting events, they are really spread out over geologic time. The last interferometric plot of the area that I saw indicated simple uplift related to the magma movement. That same image would have shown a trending slope movement if it had been present. That would have stuck out like a sore thumb. The 1975 quake is probably what would have turned into a full scale collapse, but as noted, the Lohi seamount was in the way and it stopped.

      As for something being “due,” that doesn’t work in geology, and especially for volcanoes. Statistically, you can get an idea of how often something happens, but relating that to human time scales is essentially a variation on the Gamblers Fallacy. Yeah, the Law of Large numbers says that EVENTUALLY a system will drift towards the statistical probability of an event happening, but that requires you to wait an infinite amount of time before you see it. Most gamblers don’t have the monetary resources to stay in a game that long, and the last I checked, most humans don’t make it past 100 years.
      Meanwhile, geology operates on the “millions of years” timescale.

    • Another way of looking at this breakout… is that it is a suturing event and will act to strengthen the attachment of the failed Hilina Pali slump to the main edifice.

      The “worst case” scenario that I was looking for (but didn’t happen) was for the dike to proceed to the tip of the island down the eastern rift. If you poke around in Gurgle Urt you will see an old, but sort of young lava field there, and if you look off the coast, you will find a sub-sea ridgeline with scoria cones scattered about the ridge crest. That’s a good indicator of what this system has done in the past.

      Personally, I would not build houses out in the Dead Zone of Iceland, but that is effectively what the Leilani Estates are. Homes built on a rift zone. Rift zones are known for rifting.

      Is there a way to survive a volcanic eruption? Most certainly yes. “DON’T BE THERE” Unless it’s a monster eruption affecting an entire hemisphere, you’ll survive just fine. Campi Flegrei did this to the Neanderthals about 41,000 years ago right in the middle of their home range. The decimation to their population sealed their fate and eventually, they went extinct or fully merged with Homo Sapiens. (DNA points towards this)

    • Interesting thing to concider. Maui Nui was 40% larger than the island of Hawaii before the Nuʻuanu Slide event. Everything I’ve seen on the matter points to it occurring after the active volcanism had drifted to another location in the chain.

      Perhaps the lack of active and persistent suturing allowed the edifice to weaken and eventually fail? Volcanic gases persist for a long time after eruptions cease. SO2 with water yields H2SO4, and over time, solid rock is altered yielding clay and clay like material.

  29. Two more quakes:

    2018-05-04 21:43:53.8
    06min ago
    19.37 N 155.02 W 0 3.7 ISLAND OF HAWAII, HAWAII
    2018-05-04 21:41:53.9
    08min ago
    19.32 N 154.95 W 3 3.6 HAWAII REGION, HAWAII

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