25 March 2008

Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u Crater producing ash plume

Posted by Jessica Ball

I’m finally on top of things!

As of yesterday, the gas plume emanating from the explosion site in Halema’uma’u Crater on the summit of Kilauea has started to carry ash as well. They’ve put up a webcam on the roof of the Jagger Observatory, and it’s a pretty cool view. (I am very jealous of the person currently visible in the lower right of the image.) Here’s the USGS press release:

Halema`uma`u gas plume becomes ash-laden

USGS HVO News Release
March 24, 2008

There is now continuous emission of ash from the new gas vent in Halema`uma`u Crater, turning the formerly white cloud of fume a dusty-brown color. The top of the ash plume, which is currently being blown to the southwest of the Crater, reaches 0.5 to 1.0 mile above ground level. Hawai`i aviation agencies have been notified of the potential hazard to aircraft.

Last night, small incandescent particles were observed erupting from the vent below the Halema`uma`u Overlook. A few particles were ejected with sufficient velocity to be deposited on the rim of Halema`uma`u Crater. This morning, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists reported finding Pele’s hair, Pele’s tears, and spatter in the overlook area, indicating that particles ejected overnight included molten lava-the first erupted from the new vent, which is now 30-35 m (100 ft) wide. The largest fragments of spatter, or blobs of molten rock, found on the crater rim are 10 cm (4 inches) in size.

The amount of lava erupted from the vent last night was small, but it represents the first lava erupted from anywhere in Halema`uma`u since 1982. Previous eruptions included lava flowing into the crater from fissure eruptions on its southwest rim in 1974 and 1971 and an 8 month eruption in Halema`uma`u in 1967-1968 that created a lake of lava that covered the entire crater floor.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to monitor the activity. Photos, text updates, a new Halema`uma`u Crater webcam, and details about the Kilauea 1924 explosive eruption can be found at the HVO website http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

And here are some photos (you can see more at the USGS Kilauea page):

The vent is directly under the overlook, which seems to have taken some damage from last week’s explosion. The Park Service has fortunately (or unfortunately, for volcano nuts like me) closed that part of Crater Rim Drive.

National Geographic News also has a short feature, and a different photo (hopefully taken with a telephoto lens) here.

Now I really, really, really want to be back in Hawaii. Why does all the interesting stuff have to happen when I’m stuck on the East Coast?