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Modeling groundwater inflow to the new crater lake at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaiʻi

June 8, 2020

During the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai'i, scientists relied heavily on a conceptual model of explosive eruptions triggered when lava‐lake levels drop below the water table. Numerical modeling of multiphase groundwater flow and heat transport revealed that, contrary to expectations, liquid water inflow to the drained magma conduit would likely be delayed by months to years, owing to the inability of liquid water to transit a zone of very hot rock. The summit of Kīlauea subsequently experienced an ∼2‐month period of consistent repeated collapses, and the crater now extends below the equilibrium position of the water table. Liquid water first emerged into the deepened crater in late July 2019. The timing of first appearance of liquid water (about 14 months postcollapse) and the rate of crater lake filling (currently ∼27 kg/s) were well‐predicted by the numerical modeling done in late spring 2018, which forecast liquid inflow after 3 to 24 months at rates of 10 to 100 kg/s. A second‐generation groundwater model, reflecting the current crater geometry, forecasts lake filling over the next several years. The successful 2018 to present forecasts with both models are based on unadjusted in situ permeability estimates (1 to 6 × 10−14 m2) and water‐table elevations (600 to 800 m) from a nearby research drillhole and geophysical surveys. Important unknowns that affect the reliability of longer‐term forecasts include the equilibrium water‐table geometry, the rate of evaporation from the hot and growing crater lake (currently ∼29,000 m2 at 70‐80 °C), and heterogenous permeability changes caused by the 2018 collapse.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Modeling groundwater inflow to the new crater lake at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaiʻi
DOI 10.1111/gwat.13023
Authors Steven E. Ingebritsen, Ashton F. Flinders, James P. Kauahikaua, Paul A. Hsieh
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Series Number
Index ID 70216027
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center