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Hawaiian Volcano Update: Kīlauea Lakes Overflow, Lava Drop Repeats

3:07 AM · Feb 10, 2023

One month into Kīlauea's 2023 activity, minor changes continue to occur on the eruptive surface on Halemaʻumaʻu crater floor, broadly following the pattern of its 2021 activity thus far. This past week, the eruptive output appeared to generally hold steady, producing surface lava in 6 different areas within the 300-acre inner crater floor. Most dynamic is the ~25-acre eastern lake with its still-persistent lava fountain and overflows over its perched margin. Second is the increasingly active central lava pond, which has generated frequent overflows small and large (up to ~25 acres) and is building a small lava-shield around the small pit, which also hosted its own intermittent lava fountains. Third is the western pit, formed in the previous eruption, which appears connected through a lava tube within the crusted crater floor to the eastern activity, circulating steadily with lava before it descends back beneath the crater floor, with no overflows. Fourth is the small southern pit, connected to the western pit through a lava tube, which has appeared to be sometimes obstructed, reducing in surface activity earlier this week before resuming its bright crustal overturns more recently. The final two eruptive areas this week were the margins of the crater floor where ooze-up breakouts emerged, a large but short-lived ~25-acre flow along the northern margin with continuing small-scale activity, and a smaller and even shorter outbreak along the southern margin. The eastern sector has changed again today in sync with the latest deflation-inflation (DI) cycle within the volcano's summit, the first since last week's event caused a drop in lava levels and briefly divided the lava lake in two. Similarly today, lava levels dropped again, revealing over a dozen islets within the lake that now protrude above the surface, stagnating circulation and allowing much of the lava surface to crust over. A resumption of activity is expected at the end of this ground-tilt cycle on the volcano. Interestingly, the largest overflows from the central pit briefly preceded each of the last two DI events, yesterday accompanied by gas-driven fountaining, suggesting large gas bursts are escaping just prior. This supports the notion that these cycles are driven by the draining of denser, gas-poor magma (after the bursts) through a narrow conduit during deflation, temporarily blocking any other magma ascent, until it clears and is replaced by hotter, gas-rich material during inflation. DI events have not always had the same dramatic surface effect, varying over time within each eruption, though in 2021 Kīlauea followed a similar pattern with many large DI events building to full pauses about 2 months into that eruption. Unchanged from recent weeks, gas emissions remain stable around the typical long-term eruptive levels around 3,000 tonnes per day, still the primary hazard of concern for this eruption with widespread vog still affecting island communities. All lava activity remains contained within Kīlauea's summit crater of Halemaʻumaʻu, with no indications of unusual activity in either rift zone, and thus no added threat to people. As usual, we review the recent changes in the eruption using webcam timelapses, videos, and reports courtesy of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, annotating the presentation on-screen as we go, and discuss live viewer questions as usual. Maunaloa continues to be unaffected by Kīlauea's activity, and its recent lava flows continue to cool, with no further monitoring changes to report.

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