Kilauea lava briefly breaches inner ledge


By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The lava lake at Kilauea’s summit briefly overflowed onto an inner ledge twice Wednesday morning before retreating deeper into the Halema‘uma‘u crater.

The ledge is about 90 feet (27 meters) below the crater floor.

Lava would be visible to visitors at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on the edge of the summit when it reaches about 20 meters from the crater floor, said Jim Kauahikaua, HVO lead scientist.

The crater sits inside the volcano’s caldera. Visitors can stand on the edge of the caldera at several viewing points.

Gas can be seen billowing from the crater and a bright, red glow from the lava below is visible at night.

Measuring the height of the lava lake can be difficult, Kauahikaua said, and it’s level Wednesday afternoon was unclear.

“We don’t have a good way of keeping track of its height,” he said. “Except when it came up this morning, it drowned most of the inner ledge.

“And we know from previous attempts to measure that was about 27 meters.”

Kauahikaua said the lava is rising and falling at a slower rate than in October, when it also reached the ledge.

The lake reached the same height a few times last month as well, he said.

What is causing the inflation and deflation events is unclear.

“We don’t know if it’s related to gas release,” Kauahikaua said. “We don’t know yet.”

The lake receded quickly like “surf on shore” when it reached the highest point at 7:24 a.m., he said.

On Wednesday, a lava flow continued to be active on the north side of Pu‘u ‘O‘o.That flow, fed by Pu‘u ‘O‘o’s lava lake, started Jan. 20.

A lava flow about 0.6 miles wide, fed by lava tubes, continued on the coastal plain.

Lava continued to enter the ocean at several locations southeast of Pu‘u ‘O‘o.

The Kilauea eruption has continued with few interruptions since 1983.

The Halema‘uma‘u vent has been most active since opening with a small explosive event in 2008.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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