Volcano Watch — At Kīlauea, it's always "Time to make the doughnuts"

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Some years ago, a series of commercials for a popular doughnut shop was aired on television. In the scene, Fred the baker would leave his house early in the day, reciting the line "Time to make the doughnuts," and would return late in the day, depleted, saying "I made the doughnuts."

At Kīlauea, it's always "Time to make the doughnuts"...

At Kīlauea, it's always "Time to make the doughnuts"

(Public domain.)

In each of the ads, the sequence is repeated numerous times with minor variations in weather, dress, time of day, and season. In one of the ads, Fred leaves the house so early that he actually runs into himself coming home from the doughnut shop.

The narrator comments about how many types of doughnuts there are and that they're made fresh day and night. Throughout the copy, a couple of messages come through: running a doughnut shop is the pursuit of relentless devotion each and every day, and if you do it right, you probably won't have much time left to do anything else.

Monitoring a restless volcano can be like that. And once an eruption begins, it's important to keep the measurements going, and be watchful for obvious, or even subtle, changes that might signify a new eruptive development or enhance our knowledge about subsurface processes.

Our purposes in monitoring volcanic eruptions in Hawai`i and elsewhere are twofold. First, we study active volcanic processes to better understand how volcanoes work. It is through what we learn that we are better able to address our second goal: to lessen the harmful impacts of volcanic activity on society. For Kīlauea's recent developments, much of our attention has been focused on tracking lava flow field development and assessing the potential for flows to impact populated areas. A recent publication covering this topic is available online.

Changes at eruption sites like those experienced at Kīlauea recently often require changing the way we monitor the volcano, but typically, these events also produce rich enhancements to our understanding of the ongoing processes. For example, once lava broke out downrift of Pu`u `O`o, the configuration of our camera system that monitors lava production within the existing vent was no longer adequate. We needed another camera in place right away to record the developing fissure activity—not knowing yet how long-lived the new fissure eruption might be or what might happen next. As Fred the baker would have said, it was "Time to make the doughnuts."

The additional camera system, which was rapidly assembled and deployed over the course of a few days and late evenings work, has really paid off. Rain sometimes hampers the view, but on clear nights at the eruption site, it is possible to monitor the effusive process along the 1.5 km (0.9 mi) active channel. As last week's Volcano Watch told, one of our current conundrums is estimating the effusion rate for the ongoing activity. As we continue to refine our procedures in effusion measurement, the July 21 fissure panorama camera is helping to fill in the gap. You can find this camera view at our eruption update link below.

In addition to the new webcam system, we have added more GPS stations downrift of Pu`u `O`o to track rates of spreading and contraction across the rift that might herald new material intruding beneath the surface. Gas release at the eruption site has changed, as well. Although lava is being erupted downrift, Pu`u `O`o is still strongly involved and currently appears to be acting as a chimney for gases released by magma passing beneath it. Field measurements using new instruments have been undertaken to determine the relationship between gases released from Pu`u `O`o and those from Fissure D.

These several developments in the eruption and the new ways in which we're monitoring them have been very exciting to those of us at HVO who "make the doughnuts" here. We have also been fortunate in recent weeks to have gotten help from staff members stationed at the Cascades Volcano Observatory. These colleagues have taken time from their own busy doughnut shop to assist in conducting new experiments to further improve our monitoring methods. They have also been willing to help us keep the routine measurements going during this dynamic period in Kīlauea's development, so that HVO staff can get a few more hours of sleep. It really is nice not to run into yourself coming home from the doughnut shop.


Volcano Activity Update

The July 21 eruption continues as episode 58. Lava issues passively into an open, perched channel about 1.4 km (0.9 miles) long. The channel has constrictions that divide it into four pools, each connected to the next by subtle cascades, where the lava spills downslope to the east. No crusted-over bridges remain across the constrictions. At the east end of the perched channel, the lava turns sharply east and cascades into a lower channel from which pahoehoe overflows are common. Beyond there the channel loses its distinction and transitions into one or more `a`a flows that advance slowly.

The `a`a flows fed by the lower channel have been reburying older `a`a flows erupted in August and September. The snouts of the `a`a flows reach 1.5 km (about 1 mi) beyond the end of the lower channel. Most activity is focused south and southeast, encroaching into an area of older lava about 0.5 km (0.3 mi) north of Kalalua cone; whereas the sparse flows that crept northward have mostly stalled.

At Pu`u `O`o, no incandescence has been seen on the Webcam at night for the last several weeks. The heavy fume coming from Pu`u `O`o completely obscures any view into the crater. As has been seen in years past, Pu`u `O`o could be acting as temporary storage for lava that passes beneath the cone on its way to the erupting fissure. It is, basically, a big chimney. There has also been a number of collapses in Pu`u `O`o's crater since late August, and numerous fresh cracks cut the north rim and south flank of the cone.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. Two earthquakes were located beneath the summit in the past week. Extension between locations spanning the summit, indicating inflation, continues at steady, slow rates, which have slowed further since May 2007.

One earthquake beneath Hawai`i Island was reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-3.2 earthquake occurred at 1:28 a.m. H.s.t. on Wednesday, October 10, and was located 15 km (9 miles) west-northwest of the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. The event was located at a depth of 7 km (4 miles).