Volcano Watch — Active flows entering ocean near Kamoamoa

Release Date:

Lava continues to flow from two active vents on the south and southwest flanks of the Pu`u `O`o cinder cone on Kīlauea's East Rift Zone. These vents have been simultaneously active since the eruption restarted on February 20, following a 10-day period of repose and a four-day-long period, when only the episode 51 ventwas active. 
 

Lava continues to flow from two active vents on the south and southwest flanks of the Pu`u `O`o cinder cone on Kīlauea's East Rift Zone. These vents have been simultaneously active since the eruption restarted on February 20, following a 10-day period of repose and a four-day-long period, when only the episode 51 ventwas active. 

Lava quickly reoccupied much of the tube system developed during the previous eruptive period and reached the sea by March 2. There are presently active flows entering the ocean both east and west of the flows that buried Kamoamoa between November and early February. These flows move within tubes all the way to the coast. In addition, there are active surface flows near the end of Chain of Craters Road near Lae`apuki. These flows are active along Paliuli, a small cliff a few hundred yards inland from the road, and on the coastal plain. They should enter the sea across a black sand beach, west of the main flow field, this weekend. 

The lava pond inside the Pu`u `O`o cone is active and produces a bright glow at night. This pond is deep inside the cone and can only be safely viewed from the air. The flanks of the cone have become increasingly unstable over the last few months, and several collapses have occurred. 

There are a variety of hazards to be aware of should you come to view the lava flows. The National Park Service tries to get visitors close enough to view the flows, but safety is a concern. The lowlands along the coast are dry areas, and the lava flows ignite brush and grass fires that can spread quickly. As brush and trees are covered by lava, methane explosions can occur. The methane is produced by heating plant matter beneath the flow. These methane explosions can occur either beneath the advancing flow, thereby throwing molten lava into the air, or under older flows adjacent to the advancing flow as methane migrates beneath them and ignites. Some of the methane explosions throw boulders several feet in diameter through the air. These explosions are accompanied by a deep, booming sound, which should alert lava watchers to stay a safe distance back from areas where the flows are covering brush covered areas.

The flows have crossed new sections of the Chain of Craters Road and continue to cover additional sections of the road. The smoke produced by the burning asphalt can cause choking. Where the lava enters the ocean, a new set of hazards exists. As lava flows into the ocean, the steam cloud produced is actually a dilute hydrochloric acid fume called LAZE (LAva haZE). Breathing it can cause respiratory problems and severe eye irritation. In addition, lava entering the ocean often explodes, forming tiny pieces of glass which can be carried in the LAZE cloud. These glass fragments are sharp and are easily blown into your eyes and onto your skin. The worst hazard along the coast is that the newly formed bench of lava is unstable and occasionally collapses into the sea without notice. Be particularly careful to stay landward of any large cracks in the lava bench, as these mark the break-away points when a collapse occurs. For your own safety, observe the warning signs that the National Park Service has emplaced near the coast. 

The area along the coast is generally hot and dry, and visitors are advised to bring water and wear a hat to avoid heat exhaustion. If you plan to go watch the lava in the evening, take a flashlight with you so you can safely return in the dark. Be aware of these numerous hazards and your visit will be safe as well as memorable.