Antarctic-volcano radar system visits Halema’uma’u

Photo caption: Dr. Nial Peters from the University of Cambridge sets up the prototype radar on the rim of Halema’uma’u at the summit of Kilauea in January 2018. Microwave pulses are transmitted from one dish towards the lava lake surface. Some of the microwave energy is reflected back and is received by the other dish. The range or distance to the lava lake is then calculated from the time taken between transmission and reception of the pulses, providing a sensitive measure of the lava lake height. Measurements can be made continuously. Photo courtesy of C. Oppenheimer

A recent issue of Volcano Watch looked at what the level of the lava lake within Halema’uma’u can tell us about how Kilauea works and the hazards it poses. The level varies continuously and in concert with both deep and shallow changes in the magma plumbing system feeding the lava lake. One way of thinking about it is that the lava lake acts as a pressure gauge on the magma chamber to which it is connected.