Lava Lake at Kīlauea Reaches 593 Feet Depth

December 30, 2020, 10:14 AM HST (Updated December 30, 2020, 10:14 AM)
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8:00 AM HST Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020: USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

HVO field crews observed activity within Halema‘uma‘u, at Kīlauea Volcano’s summit, overnight from within a closed area of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. The area remains closed to the public for safety reasons and HVO field crews are equipped with a range of specialized safety gear and personal protective equipment. In the early hours of December 30, the western vent in the wall of Halema‘uma‘u continued to erupt primarily effusively (flowing lava), but sporadic strombolian activity (minor explosions ejecting lava into the air) was also observed at the top of the west vent. USGS photo by H. Dietterich.

Lava activity is confined to Halemaʻumaʻu with lava erupting from vents on the northwest side of the crater. As of 3:45 a.m., the lava lake was 593 feet deep with a narrow black ledge around it. The west vents spattered while erupting lava flowed through crusted-over channels into a lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

Reduced, but still elevated, SO2 emissions were measured on Dec. 28. The preliminary analysis showed the rates are about 3,300 tonnes/day — slightly lower than the Dec. 27 rate of 5,500 t/d, but still elevated; both values were in the range of emission rates common for the pre-2018 lava lake. Seismicity remained elevated but stable, with steadily elevated tremors and a few minor earthquakes.

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The lava lake volume was about 30 million cubic yards or 5.2 billion gallons. The most recent thermal map from Dec. 28 provided the lake dimensions as 840 by 535 yards for a total area of 72 acres. The narrow ledge around the lake was about 1-2 yards above the active lake surface.

Over the past day, the main island of cooler, solidified lava floating in the lava lake drifted slightly to the west in the lake and rotated counter-clockwise. The 10 or so much smaller islands to the east remained stationary. The main island measured about 820 feet in length, 440 feet in width, and about 7 acres in area based on the Dec. 28 thermal map. Measurements on Dec. 27 show that the island surface was about 20 feet above the lake surface.

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