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Lava falls below newly formed lake rim

  • USGS / HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
    This Wednesday photo from rim of Halemaumau shows the lava lake in the completely filled Overlook crater. Repeated overflows are beginning to construct levees around the lake so the lake is perched about 7 feet above the original floor of Halemaumau.
  • USGS / HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
    This photo was taken moments after the explosion Tuesday
  • USGS / HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
    This webcamera image taken Thursday shows the lava lake from the west rim of Halemaumau.
  • USGS / HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
    This webcamera image from the observation tower at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory shows the lava lake in Halemaumau Crater at about noon Thursday.
  • USGS / HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
    This photo taken Wednesday shows the overflowing lava lake and its features. The dashed white line indicates the lava lake rim.
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The lava lake at Kilauea volcano continued to spill over its rim onto the Halemaumau Crater floor overnight, advancing about 142 yards across the crater floor by Wednesday evening.

So far, the overflows have been brief and the spreading of lava on the crater floor stopped as the lava fell below the lava lake rim.

The lava lake level dropped several yards below what’s now a “perched rim” Thursday morning from a height measured at about 2 yards above the crater floor at noon Wednesday.

The drop in lava happened as scientists measured deflation Thursday morning, after more than a week of inflation at the summit.

The lava lake level generally rises as the summit inflates and falls during periods of deflation. In addition, a magnitude 3.0 earthquake was recorded at the eastern caldera boundary, the second magnitude 3-plus earthquake during the current cycle. The inflation and deflation cycles and the seismic activity are an indication of magma movement.

The rise in the lake level began last week during an inflation cycle.

Geologists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory expect the lava lake will continue to overflow its rim intermittently.

During similar lava lake activity at Halemaumau in the 1800s and early 1900s, lava lakes frequently produced overflows, scientists said in a volcano update Wednesday. Over time, the overflows and lava spattering can build a collar of solidified lava above the lake rim that could eventually contain the lava. That collar, or perched rim, was about 7 feet above the former Halemaumau Crater floor Wednesday.

Observatory scientists said Wednesday the current activity is likely due to an increase in magma supply to Kilauea’s magma reservoir. Higher volumes of magma moving through the summit and upper East Rift Zone could be causing the earthquakes and inflation.

“As long as magma supply is elevated, we expect continued high lava lake levels accompanied by additional overflows,” observatory scientists said. “We expect continued rockfalls, intermittent explosions and ash fall, and continued high levels of gas release.”

It’s also possible that a surge of lava will reach the Puu Oo vent, increasing lava flows there. Or a new vent could form at the surface, most likely along a portion of the East Rift Zone between Pauahi Crater and Puu Oo.

“Other outbreaks in the summit area or along either rift zone on Kilauea cannot be ruled out. If a new outbreak or surge in lava to Puu Oo occurs, we will expect a drop in the summit lava lake,” scientists said.

In the meantime, the show at Halemaumau continues to attract large crowds of visitors, with some people waiting 30 minutes to park or having to hike a mile to the lava viewing area from other parking areas.

“Last night was pretty spectacular. The lava lake was so high. There was quite a bit of spattering,” Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman Janet Babb said Wednesday.

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