Categorized | Sci-Tech

Volcano Watch: Activity update for week of Jan. 23

(Activity updates are written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.)

Kilauea Volcano continues to be active. A vent in Halemaumau Crater is emitting elevated amounts of sulfur dioxide gas and producing very small amounts of ash.

Resulting high concentrations of sulfur dioxide in downwind air have closed the south part of Kilauea caldera and produced occasional air quality alerts in more distant areas, such as Pahala and communities adjacent to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, during Kona wind periods.

Variation in glow, gas-rushing sounds, and ash production over the past week may indicate that conduit beneath the vent is periodically being closed with debris.

Puu Oo continues to produce sulfur dioxide at even higher rates than the vent in Halemaumau Crater. Trade winds tend to pool these emissions along the West Hawaii 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 Puu Oo continues to flow to the ocean at Waikupanaha through a well-established lava tube. Breakouts from a western branch of the lava tube were active on the coastal plain near the National Park boundary in the past week and reached the ocean again Jan. 28. This tiny, new ocean entry is located very close to the long-buried Wahaula Heiau and National Park visitor center.

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.

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 Hawaii Island was reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-2.3 earthquake occurred at 1:20 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27 and was located 6 miles northwest of Kukuihaele at a depth of 26 miles.

Visit for daily Kilauea eruption updates, a summary of volcanic events over the past year, and nearly real-time Hawaii earthquake information. Kilauea daily update summaries are also available by phone at 967-8862. Call the county Civil Defense hotline at 961-8093 for viewing hours. Questions can be emailed to

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.