Lava lake ‘rapidly enlarging’; Kona could see relief from vog Monday

  • The ongoing eruption in Halema‘uma‘u crater at Kilauea’s summit is seen early Christmas morning. Overnight fountaining continued to feed the rising lava lake, which slowly fills Halema‘uma‘u. This photo, taken at approximately 2:30 a.m. from the south rim of the crater, shows the main northern vent that is being drowned by the rising lava lake. Intermittent activity continues at the weaker west vent. (J. Schmith and C. Parcheta/USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • As of Friday morning, the lava lake was about 577 feet deep — an increase of 20 feet in 24 hours. The lava lake volume was estimated to be about 27 million cubic yards or 4.8 billion gallons. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • The Halema‘uma‘u crater at Kilauea summit continues to slowly fill with lava from the ongoing eruption on Friday. As the lava lake rises, it gradually drowns more of the northern fissure. The western fissure activity continues to weaken, and field crews are reporting that only rare intermittent spattering is visible. (F. Trusdell/USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Two vents continued to feed lava into a rapidly enlarging lava lake filling Halema‘uma‘u crater, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

The west vent, which is located on the lowest down-dropped block within Halema‘uma‘u crater, was intermittently spattering Friday. The north vent remained the most vigorous, but was being slowly drowned by the rising lake.

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As of Friday morning, the lake was about 577 feet deep — an increase of 20 feet in 24 hours. The lava lake volume was estimated to be about 27 million cubic yards or 4.8 billion gallons.

An island of cooler, solidified lava within the lava lake has been getting smaller and drifting slowly northeastward in the lake. It is about 850 feet in length and 375 feet in width.

Meanwhile, the volcano continues to pump out high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Sulfur dioxide emission rates are estimated at around 35,000 to 40,000 tons per day. Those emissions and other aerosols make up “vog,” or volcanic smog that’s typically across the Ka‘u District, hitting first areas like Pahala, Naalehu and Ocean View, before getting caught up in sea breezes that bring it toward West Hawaii and onshore in Kona.

According to the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Vog Measurement and Prediction Project, northeasterly tradewinds are forecast to continue through Sunday, meaning vog may continue to impact areas southwest of the Kilauea summit caldera, including the western half of the southern coast of Hawaii Island (the Ka‘u District) and Kona.

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Monday morning, the winds are forecast to become southeasterly, which should provide some relief from the vog for the Kona area as the winds push the vog northward toward the rest of the state.

The National Weather Service noted Thursday morning that “significant impacts to air quality are not expected, but we are still learning about the concentrations of particulates associated with this new eruption.”