Volcano Watch — Lava flows and JASON

Release Date:

I want to thank all of you who came to our first-ever open house this past Monday. The number of people who wanted to see what we do and how we do it was most gratifying. It certainly made sprucing up the Observatory for company worthwhile.

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I want to thank all of you who came to our first-ever open house this past Monday. The number of people who wanted to see what we do and how we do it was most gratifying. It certainly made sprucing up the Observatory for company worthwhile. I thank the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory staff and all those from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the Volcano community, and other areas, who gave up their holiday and volunteered their time and energy to make this special event a success.

Based upon your suggestions, we will definitely make this an annual event. We regret the inconvenience at the end of Chain of Craters Road when the JASON Project group had to move its operation farther from the end of the road to avoid being overrun by advancing lava flows. We hope the fantastic lava viewing made up for the distant parking and long walk.

The JASON Project, led by Dr. Robert Ballard, will be filming 60 hours of live educational television shows beginning on Monday. The general concept is to allow school children from around the country to participate in an electronic field trip to Hawaii. The shows are designed to be interactive with children at various distant access sites so that they can participate in the program, for example, by remotely operating NASA's Marsokhod Rover.

In addition, selected school children (including several from Hawaii) will be on site in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and will assist scientists in making measurements on the lava flows. These shows will highlight the techniques we use to monitor the active lava flows, as well as feature many of the staff of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory doing their field work. We hope to give a large national audience a view of what we do, and why and how we do it. I hope that those of you who came to our open house left with a similar understanding of our work.

The lava flows from the 12-year-long eruption along Kīlauea's East Rift Zone has been very active during the past few weeks. There are currently numerous areas with active lava flows. A large flow along the east side of the active flow field has finally reached the Waha'ulu-Kalapana flow field that erupted from the Kupaianaha vent and created a large kipuka that includes what is left of the Royal Gardens Subdivision.

The Waha'ula-Kalapana flow field became inactive in early February 1992, and the new Kamoamoa flow field began to form by late February 1992. The Kamoamoa flow field has now been active for three years. This eastern flow has built a large lava ledge, or delta, along the coast, and lava is entering the sea over a broad front.

Farther west, two tubes are delivering lava to the sea and producing large steam plumes. These tubes are located roughly where Kamoamoa beach used to be. At the western edge of the flow field, near the former location of Lae'apuki, lava enters the ocean at the base of the sea cliff right at the end of Chain of Craters Road. It is this site that has had both spectacular and safe viewing conditions. Farther west, there are numerous small breakouts of lava from the tube that carries lava to the entry at the end of the road. These pahoehoe flows have covered a large area below Paliuli and above the road. They came within about 100 meters of the road immediately upslope from where the Jason Project was set up, thereby causing the Jason group to pack up and relocate farther west along the road last Sunday night and Monday morning.

A new flow has issued from a skylight above Pulama pali and coursed down close to the road, about a half mile west of the Kamoamoa-Lae'apuki flow field. This narrow flow cascaded over Paliuli only days after it began and has covered a large area just above the road. It is quite voluminous and, if it continues to be fed, it should cut off Chain of Craters Road about a half mile west of the current end of the road.

Numerous 'a'a and pahoehoe outbreaks have occurred above Paliuli in the middle of the flow field; many of these have advanced to, and cascaded over, Paliuli in the past few weeks.

The ever-changing activity has caused significant problems for the JASON Project. In addition to the forced move, they have been unable to finalize filming sites and lay cable to those sites. The staff of the Observatory are providing twice-daily updates on flow activity and advance rates to the National Park Service and to JASON Project to safeguard equipment and personnel along the road.

Over the next two weeks, we will keep you informed about the JASON Project and how they adjust their show to the inevitable changes in the lava flows. They are learning that Pele cannot be programmed to fit a schedule!