Kilauea Summit Activity

For the first time since 1924 there has been an explosive eruption at the summit caldera of Kilauea Volcano. In fact, until last week there had been no significant events at Kilauea’s summit since the short lived September 1982 fissure eruption. For the last 25+ years most of Kilauea’s activity has been focused at Pu’u O’o and related vents along the East Rift Zone.

When I visited in January of 2004 we were told by USGS volcanologists that the summit magma chamber was thought to be as shallow as one kilometer below Halema’uma’u Crater (itself approximately one kilometer in diameter). For the last few months sulfur dioxide gas emissions at the summit have been elevated and the Park Service has closed the Crater Rim Road in the area near Halema’uma’u as a precaution. Just last week one of the gas vents along the walls of Halema’uma’u dramatically increased its activity and since the weekend there has even been incandescence from this vent. Then last night just before 3:00am HST there was an explosive eruption (originally interpreted as a M3.7 earthquake) at this vent which showered the area around the viewing deck with blocks of old lava (no juvenile material) up to a cubic meter in volume and left a new 30m wide explosion crater.

The two panoramas below were shot at the rim of Halema’uma’u during my January 2004 visit – the top one from the visitor’s overlook (just above the new vent) and the bottom one from just north of the 1982 vents.

Visitors Overlook

Click on the image for a larger version – or view a QTVR panorama of this image.

1982 Vents Overlook

Click on the image for a larger version – or view a QTVR panorama of this image.

You can monitor the current activity at Halema’uma’u from with the live summit webcam located at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory at the Jaggar Museum. Daily updates (more frequent as necessary) from the HVO are also available.

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