Photo and Video Chronology – Kīlauea – January 8, 2021

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Kīlauea's summit eruption in Halema‘uma‘u continues on the Island of Hawai‘i continues. The west vent erupts lava into the lava lake. Gas emissions and seismic activity at the summit remain elevated. HVO field crews—equipped with specialized safety gear and PPE—monitor the current eruption from within the closed area of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park with NPS permission.

HVO scientists collect detailed data to assess hazards and understand how the eruption is evolving at Kīlauea's summit, all of which are shared with the National Park Service and emergency managers. Access to this hazardous area is by permission from, and in coordination with, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

Islands in Kilauea volcano lava lake in 1917 and 2021

Islands have been observed in Kīlauea lava lakes for more than 100 years—some move and some are moored. These two photographs of Halemaʻumaʻu crater from 1917 (top) and 2021 (bottom) show islands floating in lava lakes. The 1917 photographic panorama was taken from the edge of the lava lake, which was only about 30 m (100 ft) below crater rim and Kīlauea caldera floor. At the time, the island rose about 20 m (65 ft) up from the surface and was 100 m (330 ft) wide in the direction depicted. This photograph accompanies a painting of the same feature in Volcano Art at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park—A Science Perspective.

With the advent of photographic Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), we are able to measure the current Halemaʻumaʻu crater lava lake features in three dimensions. In the January 2021, the largest island is about 250 m (820 ft) long, 135 m (440 ft) wide, and roughly 20 m (65 ft) tall. On Friday afternoon (Jan 1) the islands’ edges were about 6 m (20 ft) above the lava lake surface. By Monday (Jan 4), the whole island had risen by about 2 m (6-7 ft). Photographs, webcam imagery, and eyewitness observations indicate that it formed through a combination of lava interacting with the lake water, early lava flows, and tephra erupted from the early highest fountains. The island has rotated and moved both eastward and westward since its formation on the first day of the eruption. At 10:30 p.m. HST on January 6, 2021, the island stalled in rotation and movement. The apparent buoyancy changes of the island may be due to a density increase in the lava lake as gases escape or sloughing off of island material from the subsurface.

(Public domain.)

Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (UAS) video clips of the eruption within Halema‘uma‘u crater at Kīlauea Volcano’s summit. This collection of video clips from December 25, 2020 taken with UAS shows the then-dominant north vent fountain and occasional weak spattering from the west vent. The lava lake during the time of the video was measured at approximately 178 m (584 ft) deep. USGS has special permits from the National Park Service to conduct official UAS missions as part of HVO's mission to monitor active volcanoes in Hawaii, assess their hazards, issue warnings, and advance scientific understanding to reduce impacts of volcanic eruptions. Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is prohibited 36 CFR Closures & Public Use. 

(Public domain.)

A helicopter overflight at approximately 10:30 a.m. HST provided views of the ongoing eruption within Halema‘uma‘u crater. Video is shown at 3 x speed. HVO geologists noted that the dome fountain, which had been persistent near the base of the west vent area, had subsided and was no longer present. Lava continues to enter the lake at the base of the west vents. Visual and thermal imagery collected during the overflight are used to map the ongoing activity.

Katie Mulliken, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of road damaged by earthquakes

On January 1, 2021, with permission from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, HVO researchers set up temporary seismic instruments around Halema‘uma‘u crater to collect data that will help them learn more about how magma travels in the shallow magmatic plumbing system beneath Kīlauea Volcano. In this photo, the field crew hikes along a portion of Crater Rim Drive road that was damaged during the 2018 Kīlauea summit collapse in order to reach one of the temporary seismic instrument deployment sites. USGS image by P. Dotray.

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of scientist installing instrument in field

Within an hour of the Kīlauea summit eruption starting on December 20, 2020, HVO's permanent seismic network detected a signal called volcanic tremor. This tremor signal has been continuous since that time, creating an uninterrupted signal that travels through the subsurface as magma degasses and erupts from vents to fill a lava lake at the summit.  This photo shows a an HVO field crew member setting up a temporary seismic instrument, with permission from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, that will help better understand how magma is moving beneath the surface at Kīlauea summit. USGS image by J. Chang.

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of scientist deploying instrument in field

HVO field crews deployed a dense network of temporary seismic instruments at Kīlauea’s summit on January 1, 2021, and with permission from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. The temporary instruments supplement data already being collected by HVO's permanent seismic network and will help to track the migration and storage of magma in the shallow volcanic plumbing system beneath the surface of Kīlauea’s summit. HVO field crews accessed the down-dropped block that formed during Kīlauea’s 2018 summit collapse events via helicopter in order to deploy two of the temporary seismic instruments there. USGS image J. Chang.

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of scientist installing instrument in field

With the onset of the eruption at Kīlauea summit on December 20, 2020, the HVO monitoring network has been recording volcanic tremor, a signal that travels through the subsurface as magma degasses and erupts from vents to fill a lava lake at the summit. Since the signal is continuous, it can be used to track the migration and storage of magma in Kīlauea's shallow volcanic plumbing system. How these patterns change over time allow volcanologists to gain a greater understanding of how magma is migrating and being stored beneath Kīlauea. On January 1, 2021, USGS field crews deployed a temporary seismic instrument on the down-dropped block that formed during Kīlauea's 2018 summit collapse. These temporary stations, installed with permission from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, will supplement data already being collected by HVO's permanent seismic network. USGS image by P. Dotray.

(Public domain.)