Volcano Watch — Kīlauea lava flow status

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The eruption on Kīlauea's east rift zone has continued without interruption since the last brief pause at the end of November.

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The eruption on Kīlauea's east rift zone has continued without interruption since the last brief pause at the end of November. New flows that broke out of the main lava tube at around the 1,600-foot elevation on December 1 have advanced down the central and western parts of the Kamoamoa flow field. The central flow reached the ocean on December 20 near Kamoamoa and has since spread along the coast for nearly a half mile with intermittently active entry points. A small lava ledge of new unstable land has formed. The western flow has covered areas adjacent to the flow field that had not previously been covered by lava. This flow entered the ocean near Lae'apuki on January 7 and stopped on January 25, after sporadic activity.

The lava has been more-or-less evenly divided between the eastern and the central flow lobes for most of the past month. There have also been several short-lived channelized 'a'a flows high on Pulama Pali. Much of the volume of new lava has inflated the flows along the nearly flat coastal plain. Flows inflate when new lava moves underneath previously formed lava crusts and lifts the crust upward. There are numerous small surface breakouts of lava inland on the coastal plain along each of the two main flow lobes.

The westernmost lobe of the western flow is currently advancing parallel to the end of Chain of Craters Road inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This flow lobe is also inflating and probably will overtop the highway and flow to the ocean, where it will cascade over a high sea cliff. We suspect that this flow should reach the ocean within the next few days. Because the active lava flows occur right at the end of the road, the viewing for visitors has been convenient and close-up.

Remember that the lava flows pose numerous hazards, including methane explosions where lava covers brush, acidic ocean plumes, instability of the new lava ledges formed where lava enters the ocean, and toxic fumes from burning pavement. Heed the warning signs and safely enjoy the spectacle.

On February 20, the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the National Park Service, the National Biological Service, and NASA will combine efforts for a day of special events at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory will have an open-house, including demonstrations of the techniques we use to monitor volcanoes. The Park Service will have a series of ranger-led hikes through various parts of the Park and will have a festival of films about the geology and biology of the Park. The National Biological Service will have an open-house at their Research Center and lead several guided hikes. NASA and the Planetary Society will have the Marsokhod Mars Rover on display doing some remotely-operated test excursions. I will provide a detailed schedule of the events planned for the day in this column during the next few weeks. Set aside the day and plan to come and enjoy the activities.