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Summit lava lake still overflowing into crater


    Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists noted overflows again at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Kilauea’s summit, after two episodes of activity on Tuesday. The slowly rising lava lake at the summit is shown very close to the floor of Halemaumau Crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.


    Lava spattered at the edge of Kilauea’s Halemaumau Crater at a different angle.

Lava overflowed from Kilauea’s summit crater lava lake Wednesday, pouring onto the floor of Halemaumau Crater days after the largest spill in 10 years on the Hawaiian volcano.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recorded new activity Wednesday morning after two episodes Tuesday.

“The lava lake level is still quite high,” said Janet Babb, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist.

On Tuesday, the observatory issued a volcano activity notice about the high level of lava, likely because of an increase in the amount of magma stored within Kilauea.

A separate notice issued last week warned of the potential for a new vent and lava flow at Puu Oo or along Kilauea’s East Rift Zone. The notice said the magma system beneath Puu Oo had become increasingly pressurized, leading scientists to think a new vent could open soon.

“We’re able to visibly see the crater floor in Puu Oo rise,” Babb said.

In 2016 the vent adjacent to the summit known as Puu Oo erupted and sent lava trickling down the mountainside and into the Pacific Ocean for the first time in several years.

A 1983 Puu Oo eruption resulted in lava fountains soaring over 1,500 feet high. In the decades since, the lava flow has buried 48 square miles of land and destroyed many homes.

In 2008, after a series of small earthquakes rattled the island, Kilauea’s summit crater opened and gushed lava and rock over 75 acres of the mountain, damaging a nearby visitor overlook.

Overflow on Monday was the largest of four pulses from the lava lake that escaped onto the crater floor since late Sunday night, resulting in the largest overflow since the summit vent opened up 10 years ago. Scientists also noted a small overflow of the south crater rim at around midnight Saturday.

The summit lava lake last overflowed in October 2016. It also overflowed in April and May 2015. This week’s overflows represent the third time the summit’s lava lake has risen high enough to spill out onto the crater floor.

The area around Halemaumau remains closed to the public because of the ongoing volcanic hazards, including elevated sulfur dioxide gas emissions and possible rockfalls and explosions.

When Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued its volcano activity notice last week, it was the first time the outpost of the U.S. Geological Service had ever produced a formal warning about a possible new vent, said Steven Brantley, deputy scientist in charge at the observatory.

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