Kilauea eruption pau? Yes, according to one standard

HILO — Three months have passed since lava was seen inside fissure 8 in Leilani Estates.

By one standard, that could mean the eruption on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone is pau.

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As noted in the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s latest update Tuesday, the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program says an eruption is no longer “continuing” if there is no eruptive activity for such a period. Active flows were last seen in lower Puna in August, though lava was still visible in fissure 8 until Sept. 5.

But don’t expect to see HVO make a big declaration.

Matt Patrick, an HVO geologist, said the eruption could be “considered” finished by that standard, but researchers are more focused on tracking what the volcano is currently doing rather than defining the end of a volcanic event.

“The issue is Kilauea is very active,” he said. “There could always be a resumption of activity in the future because of the fact that magma is still being supplied into the volcano.”

There is at least one outlier to reinforce caution.

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HVO notes the Mauna Ulu eruption, which lasted from 1969-74, resumed after being quiet for more than three months.

Patrick said magma continues to refill the middle rift zone from roughly Pu‘u ‘O‘o to Highway 130, but there are no signs of an imminent eruption nor signs of activity under Leilani, where the eruption started May 3.