Volcano Watch — Kīlauea eruption status and shoreline hazard

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The eruption on Kīlauea's east rift zone has continued with little change since mid-summer. Lava issues at a rate of 6 cubic yards per second from a vent on the west flank of the Pu`u `O`o cone and flows through a lava tube for 6 miles to the sea.

The eruption on Kīlauea's east rift zone has continued with little change since mid-summer. Lava issues at a rate of 6 cubic yards per second from a vent on the west flank of the Pu`u `O`o cone and flows through a lava tube for 6 miles to the sea. The current tube is quite stable, which is why we have witnessed almost no surface flows (the result of a leaky tube) since the end of August.

The lava tube discharges directly into the ocean at Lae`apuki, about 1.5 miles from the end of Chain of Craters in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Large, billowing steam plumes, tinged with red at night, mark the chief points of discharge, which lie near the central edge of a 300-ft wide lava bench.

The Lae`apuki entry has distinguished itself by producing some of the most unstable benches we've seen in years. Collapses occurred every 2-3 weeks from July through September, and each one removed most, or all, of the bench plus slices of the older sea cliff behind it. The bench occupies an embayment in the coastline created by one of the largest of these events—a collapse in early July that claimed almost 3.5 acres.

During the most recent collapse, which occurred last week, about a quarter of the bench slid into the sea. Bench collapses occur without warning and trigger steam explosions that can hurl dense blocks of lava as much as 300 feet inland. For safety's sake, it is essential that visitors heed warning signs at the end of Chain of Craters Road and stay within the viewing areas designated by National Park personnel.