Volcano Watch — Lava continues to flow near Kamoamoa

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The eruption from the episode 51 vents has continued without interruption since October 2. The flows crossed the Chain of Craters Road near Kamoamoa in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park on November 7. Since that time, flows have covered all of the Kamoamoa ruins, campground, parking lot, and picnic area, and have formed perhaps 30 acres of new land.
 

 

Lava continues to flow near Kamoamoa...

Lava continues to flow near Kamoamoa

(Public domain.)

The eruption from the episode 51 vents has continued without interruption since October 2. The flows crossed the Chain of Craters Road near Kamoamoa in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park on November 7. Since that time, flows have covered all of the Kamoamoa ruins, campground, parking lot, and picnic area, and have formed perhaps 30 acres of new land.

The flows into the ocean have spread out at the coast and now are about a half mile wide. Lava entry points into the sea have been active along the entire flow front at different times, but were most active on the western edge of the new flows towards the end of the week. At first the lava moved along the black sand beach parallel to the shore, leaving a strip of sand mauka of the new lava bench forming at the shoreline. In time, the bench became inflated with lava flowing under the crusted surface, then flowing back, away from the ocean, and covering the black sand beach! The initial flows that entered the picnic area at Kamoamoa also flowed towards the land from the lava bench along the ocean.

This is the first time in more than a year that active flows have entered the ocean. These flows have reached the ocean because of the long duration of this eruptive interval; all the previous eruptive periods since February have been shorter than 32 days, and lava did not reach the ocean.

As we noted last week, lava entering the ocean produces several unique hazards, including explosions as the lava and seawater interact, hydrochloric acid fume, and sudden collapse of the lava benches that form on top of unstable sandy shoreline. Lava viewing will be safe and enjoyable if people are careful and observe the warning signs posted by the National Park Service in the Kamoamoa area.

The National Park Service has an eruption information phone number (967-7977) that is updated as conditions and access change. You can also find out about access to the flows at the visitor center near the entrance to the National Park. An electronic update can be read through the window even after the visitor center is closed. Signs are erected at road intersections in the National Park that direct visitors to the lava flows. The National Park Service has opened the area for viewing whenever it is safe to have visitors there. If they have closed the area off, it means that there is a danger from wildfires or that the laze is particularly bad (generally onshore winds). People with respiratory or heart problems, small children, and pregnant women should not expose themselves to the laze.

Conditions can change rapidly, and at times the Park rangers are forced to evacuate visitors from the area to ensure public safety. Leave enough time to get down to the flows. The drive down Chain of Craters Road from the visitor center takes nearly one hour, and the hike east along the road across a newly cut trail to the ocean takes another 45 minutes or more, depending on how far back along the road you have to park (sometimes as much as several miles).

The level of activity near the coast has varied greatly during the last week. At times, such as Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, there were numerous and voluminous surface flows in the coastal area and lava cascades draping Paliuli about half a mile inland. On occasion, there are new breakouts along the main pali, and new `a`a flows move downslope, covering forest and burning trees. At other times, such as Wednesday afternoon, all the lava was transported in an underground tube and delivered to the ocean entry points with no evidence of surface flows. This great variability in activity appears to be caused by changes in the tube system rather than changes in the volume of lava being erupted.