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Reprinted from here.

A view of the lava lake within Halema`uma`u Crater on December 27, 1911, with Uwekahuna bluff (where HVO and the Jaggar Museum now stand) and Mauna Loa in the background. The lake level had risen about 120 m (400 ft) since October 1911 and will drop 90 m (300 ft) in January, 1912, the month that HVO was founded by Thomas A. Jaggar's arrival for duty.

A view of the lava lake within Halema`uma`u Crater on December 27, 1911, with Uwekahuna bluff (where HVO and the Jaggar Museum now stand) and Mauna Loa in the background. The lake level had risen about 120 m (400 ft) since October 1911 and will drop 90 m (300 ft) in January, 1912, the month that HVO was founded by Thomas A. Jaggar's arrival for duty.

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is certainly true, especially when it comes to photographs of Hawaiian eruptions and volcanic landscapes from earlier times.

Long-time readers of “Volcano Watch” might recall our January 20, 2005, article (, which describes an HVO geologist’s excitement at finding an 1860s photo of Kilauea’s caldera. By comparing the photo to a present-day view of the caldera, he could see the location of volcanic features described in written records (with less than a thousand words) but no longer visible today—a valuable discovery when your job is to decipher a volcano’s eruptive history.

Without realizing it, you or a family member may have captured a similarly important historical record of Hawai`i’s volcanoes. How? By taking a photo and keeping it.

Your `ohana, like many families, probably has several albums—or shoe boxes—filled with old photographs. Perhaps your great-grandmother took a picture of a long-ago Kilauea summit eruption or your brother snapped a photo of `a`a lava as it flowed down the slopes of Mauna Loa. If you possess photographs that show volcanic landscapes or features, volcanic fume (vog), or any kind of eruptive activity, HVO geologists would like to hear from you and see the photos.

We learn the most from photographs that have some documentation about when and where they were taken. Date and location are essential pieces of information that help us interpret the geologic significance of a photo. If people are recognizable in a photograph, their names should also be included. Any other details you can provide about the image will add to its meaning.

Wide-angle shots are more helpful than close-ups. For example, if a photo is zoomed in on the leading edge of a lava flow and shows nothing else, we cannot determine the size of the flow-or much of anything else—from the image. With wide-angle views, we can see the geographic or geologic context of the eruptive activity or volcanic features shown in the photograph.

If you’re interested in sharing your photos with HVO scientists, the first thing you should do is contact us by telephone (808-967-7328) or email us ( Geologists are standing by to speak with you. The purpose of this initial conversation is to determine which of your photographs might be beneficial to our research and monitoring efforts on Hawai`i’s volcanoes. We will then send you additional information on how we can receive and duplicate photos selected from your collection.

No need to worry about giving up your photographs—you retain ownership of them. We will return your photos to you after duplicating the images selected as most useful. In appreciation of your loaning us the photographs, we will be happy to give you digital copies of the images we scan.

To kick off our effort to expand HVO’s photographic collection of Hawai`i’s volcanoes, we are asking at this time to see photographs from 1924 and earlier. Those years included frequent lava lake activity in Halema`uma`u Crater and culminated in the explosive eruptions of May 1924.

Pre-1924 photos are of particular interest to us now because they could shed light on Kilauea’s current summit eruption. Even if they show no eruptive activity, early photographs of Kilauea’s caldera can contribute to a better understanding of the volcano’s past and reveal features that are no longer visible. The same is true for early photos of Mauna Loa and Hualalai.

We will initially focus on early historical photographs, but you can contact us about any volcanic images you think might interest us. Although we may not be able to look at photos taken in recent decades right away, we would eventually like to see them. Our ultimate goal is to acquire images from the 1800s through the 20th century.

So, please lend us a hand while taking a trip down memory lane. Look through your family photos and contact HVO if you find images of Hawai`i’s volcanoes. Your old photographs could give new life to eruptive events and volcanic landscapes rapidly fading from our visual memories.

Kīlauea Activity Update

Surface flows in the Royal Gardens subdivision remained active as of Thursday, June 18, burning through forested kipuka. Another area of breakouts active higher up on the pali was also reported. The Waikupanaha and Kupapa`u ocean entries remain active and continue to produce prominent plumes as lava spills into the ocean.

At Kīlauea’s summit, the vent within Halema`uma`u Crater continues to emit elevated amounts of volcanic gas, resulting in high concentrations of sulfur dioxide downwind. Bright glow from the vent was visible at night through the past week. A collaborative effort last week between HVO and UH-Manoa scientists, using a sophisticated optical remote-sensing technology called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), has measured the lava surface to be about 205 m (675 feet) below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater.

No earthquakes beneath Hawai`i Island were reported felt this past week.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and exploring the Big Island’s volcanoes in particular, please also visit and

Reprinted from here.

Magma within Kīlauea’s summit vent never goes flat

On May 14, a brief bit of clear weather shows the Halema`uma`u plume rising and blowing with the wind.
On May 14, a brief bit of clear weather shows the Halema`uma`u plume rising and blowing with the wind.

Two weeks ago, readers of this column learned about the genesis of brown plumes and sudden gas release from Kīlauea’s summit vent. This week we will continue that exploration, looking farther into Kīlauea’s magma plumbing system to explain why the summit vent has become a long-lived feature of the volcano.

As residents of the Big Island can attest, vog has been a substantial irritant since the formation of Kīlauea’s summit eruptive vent in early 2008. Can we expect this release of volcanic gas to go away anytime soon? The short answer is no, but that requires a bit of explanation.

As magma rises to shallow levels beneath the ground surface, pressure on the magma drops, and gas is released—similar to opening a can of soda (dropping pressure), allowing the dissolved carbon dioxide to bubble out. The magma will go flat once all of the gas is released, suggesting that Kīlauea’s summit should eventually stop releasing gas.

The persistence of volcanic gas emissions from Kīlauea’s summit is evidence that the supply of gas-rich magma is being replenished. To understand why, we’ll need to understand the principle of convection—in other words, how a lava lamp works.

In a lava lamp, heat added at the bottom warms the colored blobs within the lamp, causing them to become less dense and rise to the top. Since the top of the lamp is away from the heat source, the colored blobs gradually cool, become denser, and sink. The cycle repeats itself until the lamp is turned off.

A similar process is probably occurring beneath Kīlauea’s summit but is driven by gas release instead of by heat. Magma within the summit vent is like an open soda, where dissolved gases gradually come out of solution. As the magma goes flat, its density increases. Eventually, the dense, flat magma will sink and be replaced by less-dense, gas-rich magma—a lava lamp in action! As a result of this process, the summit plume of gas and ash is constantly renewed.

Besides the unusual persistence of the summit plume, there is other evidence that convection is occurring within Kīlauea’s shallow magma system.

If you read the Kīlauea daily activity updates, posted on the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Website each morning, or are a regular reader of this column, you’ve probably heard of “DI” events. “DI” is shorthand for “deflation-inflation.” These events occur as the summit suddenly begins to deflate and then, after about 12–48 hours, just as suddenly begins to inflate and returns to normal.

Prior to 2008, the average number of DI events occurring in any given year was about 10. In 2008, however, there were 47 DI events and, in 2009, there have already been 15 thus far.

DI events may be a physical manifestation of convection within Kīlauea’s shallow magma plumbing system. DI deflation could be caused by downward flow of dense, “flat” magma, with DI inflation representing the rise of fresh, gas-rich magma. During the time between DI events, fresh magma would gradually degas and become denser. The increase in the frequency of DI events in 2008 probably reflects the fact that, due to the start of the summit eruption, the magma rose to very shallow depths, allowing for much more efficient and rapid degassing.

Vent collapses, like the one that generated the spectacular brown plume in early May, are sometimes associated with DI events. Assuming that DI deflation signifies the downward flow of dense magma, collapses might be expected, due to removal of magmatic support from the eruptive vent.

Although magma convection is suspected at several volcanoes worldwide, the process is difficult to document, because there is no way to see directly into a magma chamber. At Kīlauea, however, the outstanding level of geophysical and geochemical monitoring has provides good evidence of convection just beneath the volcano’s surface.

Scientists at HVO will continue to study DI events, gas emissions, brown plumes, and other signals from the summit vent in hopes of learning more about Kīlauea’s magma plumbing system. There is no doubt that this lava lamp will be going for a long time to come, so stay tuned to this column and the daily activity updates for the latest information!

Kīlauea Activity Update

The Waikupanaha and Kupapa`u ocean entries remain active and are topped by robust laze plumes. Frequent small collapses have prevented either entry from building a large delta. There have been no lava breakouts from anywhere along the tube system reported in the last week.

At Kīlauea’s summit, the vent within Halema`uma`u Crater continues to emit elevated amounts of sulfur dioxide gas, resulting in high concentrations of sulfur dioxide downwind. Glow, gas-rushing noises, and the emission of juvenile ash during the past week suggest that a small lava lake is still present below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater.

No earthquakes beneath Hawai`i Island were reported felt this past week.

Visit our Web site ( for detailed Kīlauea and Mauna Loa activity updates, recent volcano photos, recent earthquakes, and more; call (808) 967-8862 for a Kīlauea activity summary; email questions to Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

For more information about traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit and

Reprinted from here.

Undated USGS photo of the Waikupanaha Ocean Entry, Kilauea Volcano, HI

Undated USGS photo of the Waikupanaha Ocean Entry, Kilauea Volcano, HI

As we begin the New Year with Kīlauea Volcano erupting at two vents simultaneously and still going strong after its 26th anniversary on January 3, a review of the world’s other active volcanoes show scientists, public leaders, and communities similarly challenged to deal with the effects of old and new eruptions.

Such a review reminds us that volcanoes have a way of changing the course of lives and livelihoods with little or no warning in persistent and pervasive ways.

The significant events at Kīlauea during 2008 included a new eruption at Halema`uma`u Crater (the longest summit eruption since 1924!), lava entering the ocean following the July 21, 2007, fissure eruption downrift of Pu`u `Ō `ō, and dramatic increase in the emission of sulfur dioxide gas from the new Halema`uma`u and old Pu`u `Ō `ō vents.

The increased gas emission seriously affected or killed nearby agricultural crops, led to restricted public access in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and engulfed thousands more people than “usual” for brief but numerous periods of time.

The new lava entry area, however, provided tens of thousands of people with safe viewing experiences of lava flows and small explosions along the coast thanks to the hard work of Hawai`i County and it’s Civil Defense staff.

Worldwide an average of about 60 volcanic eruptions occurs each year based on eruption records of the past 20-30 years. A Weekly Volcanic Activity Report supported by the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program and the U.S. Geological Survey is a good source of preliminary information of the world’s volcano activity (see

A review of these preliminary reports shows that about 84 volcanoes either erupted or showed signs of restlessness in 2008. Forty-eight of these volcanoes were active sometime during 2007, including Kīlauea.

Sixteen volcanoes erupted or were restless in Indonesia, 8 in the United States, 7 each in Japan and Russia, and 6 each in Ecuador and Papua New Guinea.

Two of the most explosive eruptions occurred at volcanoes that were not monitored, Chaiten Volcano in Chile and Kasatochi in Alaska. Kasatochi hadn’t erupted in more than a century; Chaiten hadn’t erupted in more than 9,000 years.

The May 2nd eruption of Chaiten greatly affected people living in the area and neighboring Argentina because of significant ash fall and lahars. Residents of the remote coastal town of Chaiten (pop. 4,700), located 10 km (6 miles) from the volcano, were evacuated within days. The town was the gateway for tourism in Patagonia and a center of commercial salmon aquiculture, but within 2 weeks, a thick accumulation of ash and heavy rainfall led to lahars (volcanic debris flows) and sediment-laden floods that buried parts of the town and airport.

At the end of 2008, Chaiten was still erupting a new lava dome in its crater and generating frequent ash columns 2-3 km (6,500-9,850 feet) high. Chileans are still working to decide the fate of the town and former residents.

Kasatochi erupted first on August 7, resulting in an enormous ash and gas cloud that spread southeastward across the Gulf of Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States. Many airlines diverted or cancelled flights to avoid the volcanic cloud. On August 10, dozens of cancelled flights in the Western U.S. stranded more than 6,000 passengers.

In Colombia thousands of people living in river valleys draining the glacier-covered Nevado del Huila volcano had to evacuate their communities in April because of increased activity detected by scientists and again in November because of an eruption. Hot material erupted onto the summit November 20, melting some of the glacier and generating lahars as high as 10 m (33 ft) in two river valleys.

Colombian scientists monitoring the volcano had raised the warning levels and good communications with the communities downstream of the volcano resulted in fewer than 10 casualties. Similar lahars that occurred in 1994, triggered by a large earthquake and landsliding, killed more than 1,000 people.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory wishes a safe new year for scientists and other volcano watchers across the globe tracking the world’s volcanoes. We especially wish this for people and communities living on or in the shadow of a volcano active during the past few years or that becomes active and erupts in 2009.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island, including volcanic eruptions and lava flows, please visit and here.

Activity update

Kīlauea Volcano continues to be active. A vent in Halema`uma`u Crater is erupting elevated amounts of sulfur dioxide gas and very small amounts of ash. Resulting high concentrations of sulfur dioxide in downwind air have closed the south part of Kīlauea caldera and produced occasional air quality alerts in more distant areas, such as Pahala and communities adjacent to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, during kona wind periods.

Pu`u `Ō`ō continues to produce sulfur dioxide at even higher rates than the vent in Halema`uma`u Crater. Trade winds tend to pool these emissions along the West Hawai`i coast, while Kona winds blow these emissions into communities to the north, such as Mountain View, Volcano, and Hilo.

Lava erupting from the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB) vent at the eastern base of Pu`u `Ō`ō continues to flow to the ocean at Waikupanaha through a well-established lava tube. Beakouts from the lava tube were active in the Royal Gardens subdivision and on the coastal plain in the past week. Ocean entry activity has continued throughout the past week, with a minor short-term reduction in activity following a deflation-inflation cycle on December 27.

Be aware that active lava deltas can collapse at any time, potentially generating large explosions. This may be especially true during times of rapidly changing lava supply conditions. The Waikupanaha delta has collapsed many times over the last several months, with three of the collapses resulting in rock blasts that tossed television-sized rocks up onto the sea-cliff and threw fist-sized rocks more than 200 yards inland.

Do not approach the ocean entry or venture onto the lava deltas. Even the intervening beaches are susceptible to large waves generated during delta collapse; avoid these beaches. In addition, steam plumes rising from ocean entries are highly acidic and laced with glass particles. Call Hawaii County Civil Defense at 961-8093 for viewing hours.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. Four earthquakes were located beneath the summit this past week. Continuing extension between locations spanning the summit indicates slow inflation of the volcano, combined with slow eastward slippage of its east flank.

One earthquake beneath Hawai`i Island was reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-3.1 earthquake occurred at 1:39 p.m., H.s.t., on Sunday, December 28, 2008, and was located 5 km (3 miles) southeast of Pahala at a depth of 9 km (6 miles).

Visit our Web site ( for daily Kīlauea eruption updates, a summary of volcanic events over the past year, and nearly real-time Hawai`i earthquake information. Kilauea daily update summaries are also available by phone at (808) 967-8862. Questions can be emailed to