Volcano Watch: Magma chamber music can tell a revealing tale

The top plot shows a 2013 seismic recording of a normal shallow magnitude-2 earthquake that occurred a few miles south of the summit of Kilauea Volcano. The bottom plot shows a 2013 seismic recording of magma resonance after a large rock broke off the Halema‘uma‘u crater walls at the summit of Kilauea Volcano and then impacted the lava lake surface. Note the different timescales; the normal earthquake only lasted for about 20 seconds in total, whereas each magma oscillation cycle lasted for 40 seconds and the vibrations continued for over 20 minutes in total. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The ongoing eruption in Halema‘uma‘u, at Kilauea summit, is occurring from a number of vents in a complex located in the western half of the crater. The tallest cone in this complex measures about 60 feet in height and is shown in this photograph. (USGS photo by L. Gallant/Special to West Hawaii Today)

In a lava lake, such as the one present from 2008-18 in Kilauea’s summit Halema‘uma‘u crater, we can sometimes visually observe these fluid motions as ripples or sloshing of the surface following disturbances from rockfalls or gas bursts.