East Hawaii News

Kilauea Lava Lake Reaches Highest Level Yet

October 19, 2012, 6:21 PM HST
* Updated October 22, 12:02 PM
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The lava lake at the summit of Kilauea volcano reached its highest level yet today, leading to speculation that it could rise to a level visible from the Jaggar Museum overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park officials said.

Scientists at the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that the lake in the southwest portion of Halemaumau Crater this morning rose to within 125 feet of the crater’s floor. HVO webcams suggested that the lake might have risen even higher before sinking again this afternoon, said park Ranger Jessica Ferracane.

Jim Kauahikaua, the observatory’s scientist-in-charge, estimates that the lava will be visible from the overlook if it rises to within 65 feet of the crater floor, she said.

The lava lake was formed following an explosive eruption on March 19, 2008.

Ferracane said visitors continue to gather at park overlooks after dark to view the dramatic glow that lava beneath the surface casts upon clouds and the plume of volcanic gas, hoping molten lava will rise high enough to be seen. She said the parking lot at Jaggar Museum is often busy with hopeful observers.

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Ferracane urged all visitors who plan to come after dark, especially those who park at Kīlauea Overlook, which affords panoramic views of the crater and Kīlauea caldera, to bring flashlights. Earth cracks, rocks, and other hazards are not easily seen in the dark.

Park officials are asking visitors to be on the lookout for nene nesting near Jaggar Museum. HVNP photo.

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In addition, Ferracane said, several pairs of nēnē, the federally endangered Hawaiian goose, are beginning to nest near the Jaggar Museum parking lot, and are sometimes spotted along roadsides and trails. She reminded visitors that cars are the leading cause of nēnē fatalities, and drivers are cautioned to be alert, and to drive the speed limit.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “We encourage everyone to visit during this fascinating episode, but to exercise caution. Staff will be assisting visitors with parking and interpretation of the current activities.

“If people come prepared and proceed as directed, they should have an unforgettable experience,” Orlando said.

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