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Geologists Say Kilauea Summit Quieter, But Not Silent

Posted November 15, 2012, 07:13 PM HST
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Aerial view taken early this month of spattering at the southwest edge of the lava lake inside a crater at the east edge of the floor of Halemauau. HVO photo.

Kilauea volcano hasn’t auditioned a new act yet, but scientists at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the possibility is still there.

October’s record high level of the lava lake in the Halemaumau summit crater, as well as heightened earthquake activity and ground inflation, recently had geologists saying the stage was set for a new outbreak.

They noted that similar activity two years had been followed by a new eruption at Kamoamoa, near the active vent at Pu`u `O`o on Kilauea’s east rift zone.

In the latest Volcano Watch column released today, HVO scientists said that the lava level has dropped, and the summit is no longer inflating at the steady rate observed last month. Earthquakes in Kilauea’s east rift zone, an indicator of a buildup of magma pressure underground, are also much less frequent, they said.

However, it’s not yet time to close the curtain on the possibility of a new eruption.

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Scientists said detailed records of the lava lake in Halemaumau in the early part of the 1900s showed that high levels were often followed by an eruption on the east rift.

On several occasions, no eruption followed, which suggests that the volcano has internal mechanisms for adjusting the magmatic pressure.

But in two other instances, the eruption occurred several months after the lava level peaked, so the possibility of new activity remains.

“Only a couple weeks have elapsed since those high lava levels were recorded, but the summit is still in an inflated state,” the column said. “The build-up has drawn down a bit, but there’s an elevated likelihood of change in the ongoing activity and plenty of reasons to keep a watchful eye on Kilauea.”

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