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HVO downgrades Kilauea volcano alert from warning to watch level

3:30 p.m. Wednesday (March 25) conference call regarding the Kilauea June 27th Lava Flow and the downgrade to a ‘watch’ status

Heard on the call
Christina (Tina) Neal, Scientist-in-Charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Jim Kauahikaua, former Scientist-in-Charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Darryl Oliveria, Civil Defense Administrator for the County of Hawaii
Peter Boylan, Executive Assistant to Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
Baron Sekiya, Hawaii 24/7
Tom Callis, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
Paul Drewes, KITV

Update by Baron Sekiya: I spoke to Janet Babb of HVO and she helped to clarify the question I asked and the answer I was given regarding the plumbing of Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent heard on the recording. The question that should have been posed is regarding the correlation between the deflation/inflation (DI) events at Kilauea summit and Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent lava output.

Both the lava lake at Halemaumau and Pu‘u ‘O‘o crater are fed from the same magma reservoir but due to the separate plumbing to each site deflation/inflation (DI) events don’t always correspond to each other. In the past a deflation event at Kilauea summit would be followed a few days later with lower lava levels at Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent on the east rift zone but that wasn’t always the case this past year.

DI events didn’t necessarily correspond to the outflow from Pu‘u ‘O‘o which puzzled the scientists but may have meant the conduit from the magma reserve under Kilauea to Pu‘u ‘O‘o had possibly changed to constrict the flow. Scientists are still studying these DI events and their outcomes at all sites.


HVO/USGS Volcanic Activity Notice

Volcano: Kilauea (VNUM #332010)

Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Previous Volcano Alert Level: WARNING

Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

Issued: Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 2:17 PM HST (20150326/0017Z)
Source: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Notice Number: 2015/H1
Location: N 19 deg 25 min W 155 deg 17 min
Elevation: 4091 ft (1247 m)
Area: HI Hawaii and Pacific Ocean

Volcanic Activity Summary: HVO is downgrading the volcano alert level for Kīlauea from WARNING to WATCH. Eruption of lava continues at both the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone and in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater at the volcano’s summit. However, in recent weeks, the Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava flows nearest to the town of Pāhoa became inactive. Because the immediate threat from the June 27th lava flow has been reduced, we are reducing the alert level.

Presently, the only active surface lava occurs in four separate breakouts from the main lava tube within three areas in the upper 6 km (4 mi) of the flow field below the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent. Lava from these breakouts is moving slowly atop earlier flows and along the margin of the June 27th and the Kahaualeʻa (2013-2014) flow fields. Based on the rate and trajectory of these active flows, we anticipate that it will be at least months before lava could reach to within 1 mile or 1 week of homes or infrastructure.

The ultimate trajectory and path of the lava flow depends on how lava activity evolves in these areas.

Should breakouts along the northern margin of the June 27th flow field become dominant, the resulting lava flow will likely follow steepest lines of descent that approach the Hawaiian Acres and Ainaloa subdivisions.

Should the breakout heading towards the south margin of the June 27th flow field become dominant, the resulting flow will likely parallel the East Rift Zone and approach the Pāhoa area.

At this time, reoccupation of the lava tube that fed lava flows toward the Pāhoa Marketplace area is unlikely. Should this occur, however, delivery of lava farther downslope to the currently inactive extent of the June 27th lava flow field could happen more quickly, perhaps within weeks.

This assessment is based on continued lava production at Puʻu ʻŌʻō at current eruption rates and vent location. Should the eruption rate increase significantly or the locus of eruption shift to a new vent, the conditions of lava flow advance and associated threat could change quickly.

HVO will continue to monitor the volcano closely in cooperation with Hawai?i County Civil Defense. Daily updates will continue.

Hazard Analysis:

  • [Lava flow] Active lava flows from Puʻu ʻŌʻō are slowly advancing atop earlier flows and along the margins of the June 27th and Kahaualeʻa (2013-2014) flow fields. At current rates of eruption and flow advance, it may be months before lava could approach homes and infrastructure. This time frame could change quickly if eruption rate or location of lava emission changes significantly.
  • [Volcanic gas] Significant amounts of sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gasses continue to be released into the atmosphere from both Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Halemaʻumaʻu.
  • [Ash fall] Small amounts of ash consisting of volcanic glass (Pele’s hair) and pulverized rock may drift downwind from Halemaʻumaʻu.
  • [Other hazards] Methane explosions are possible along the margins of active lava that flows into vegetated areas. These explosions can hurl large blocks of lava rock and heave the ground suddenly and without warning.

Remarks: The Pu`u `Ō`ō vent in the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano began erupting on January 3, 1983, and has continued for more than 32 years, with the majority of lava flows advancing to the south. Over the past two years, lava flows have issued from the vent toward the northeast. The June 27th flow is the most recent of these flows and the first to threaten a residential area since 2010-2011.

Time-lapse multi-image movie of Pu’u ‘O’o Crater. March 18-25, 2015. Images courtesy of USGS/HVO

Time-lapse movie from images gathered from a temporary thermal camera looking into Pu’u ‘O’o Crater. The temperature scale is in degrees Celsius up to a maximum of 500 Celsius (932 Fahrenheit) for this camera model, and scales based on the maximum and minimum temperatures within the frame. Thick fume, image pixel size and other factors often result in image temperatures being lower than actual surface temperatures. March 18-25, 2015. Images courtesy of USGS/HVO

Time-lapse movie of Pu’u ‘O’o Crater North Flank from the North Rim. March 18-25, 2015. Images courtesy of USGS/HVO

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