Kilauea’s summit lava lake still overflowing into crater

  • Visitors have been flocking to Kilauea’s summit to view the overflowing lava lake, best seen at night. (Billy Kilmer / West Hawaii Today)

  • Kilauea’s summit lava lake reaches the floor of Halemaumau Crater on Monday. (JANICE WEI/NPS volunteer)

HILO — Kilauea’s summit lava lake continued to be filled to the brim Wednesday following additional overflows onto the floor of Halemaumau Crater.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported two additional overflows Tuesday and at least one more Wednesday.

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The spills occur as pressure underneath the summit pushes the lake higher. Scientists call that inflation, and while the summit continues to enter short periods of deflation, during which the lake recedes, it remains in an overall inflated state, keeping the lake unusually elevated.

HVO estimates these most recent overflows are the largest seen since the summit eruption began a decade ago.

Each spill changes the elevation of the floor of Halemaumau and the top of the informally named Overlook crater, where the lake resides.

“One of the challenges now is to track that growing rim elevation,” said Tina Neal, HVO’s scientist-in-charge.

The last time there were substantial overflows was in 2015. Those lasted about a week, Neal said, and came to an end when the lake receded following an intrusion of magma into the southern caldera.

The overflows have been occurring since Saturday night.

The spectacle is easily seen from Jaggar Museum at the edge of Kilauea’s caldera. But the volcano puts on its best show after dark.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said the parking area has been jam-packed the past few nights.

Visitors also can park at the Kilauea overlook and walk along a paved trail to Jaggar Museum. A flashlight is recommended for that walk.

“It’s really busy at the sunset hour after dinner, between 6 and 7:30 p.m.,” she said.

For those who want to avoid the crowds, Ferracane recommends visiting before sunrise.

“Not everyone wants to get up that early, but this is one of those cases where it is really worth it,” she said.

Scientists note that the Puu Oo cone, located on Kilauea’s East Rift Zone, continues to uplift and crack as pressure builds underneath.

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Active lava flows remain within a few kilometers of the cone. HVO scientists say it’s likely the pressure will lead to a new vent and flow at Puu Oo.

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

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