She's Dead, Jim
Geological activity at Kilauea Volcano has definitely taken a new direction. If you have been following the news you should be aware of the recent outbreaks of fissures on her southeastern rift zone. Unfortunately, the outbreaks have occurred in populated areas and many people have lost their homes and also forced to evacuate.
Personally, I have been watching Kilauea and Mauna Loa pretty much constantly for the last three years. The USGS provides a site which you can check (and I do daily) on the latest activity at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. I've been following particularly closely over the last month as both Kilauea proper and the massive Pu'u O'o crater (down the southeastern rift) began swelling in late March. While lava entry into the ocean had stopped a few months ago, lava outbreaks around Pu'u O'o were frequent and the inflation just added constant pressure for outbreaks. This activity was exciting to see as this year's travel plans included Hawaii in November 2018 and I had planned for much more up close and personal lava flow experiences. On 30 April Kilauea experienced a massive swarm of relatively shallow earthquakes both at the caldera and along her southeast rift zone. I had a sinking feeling that something was about to happen and I was missing it.
On 1 May, Pu'u O'o's crater floor collapsed and seismicity indicated activity further down-rift (southeast). Below you can see what Pu'u O'o looked like during clear weather earlier in April 2018.
You can clearly see a lava pond (bottom-center) and, image-left, you can make out USGS gear monitoring Pu'u O'o. From late March up to this point I had watched Pu'u O'o's crater floor go from a concave configuration to a convex, almost dome-like, structure. In fact, the reddish-beige formation, image-right, once loomed high above the crater immediately to the left (north). Apparently, the magma causing Pu'u O'o to swell (as well as Kilauea) had found a path further down-rift and the sudden evacuation of magma and severe drop in pressure caused Pu'u O'o to fail completely. A couple of days later, Hawaii experienced three 5+ magnitude earthquakes including one not far from Pu'u O'o and a fourth earthquake registering 6.9 just off the south shore of the island.
Further down-rift USGS continued to monitor increased seismic activity and tilting of the rift zone. On about 5 May USGS were able to inspect Pu'u O'o since the weather had cleared enough to allow flights and visibility was good. It became obvious that Pu'u O'o had suffered a devastating collapse. Additionally, a one kilometer-long crack had opened directly west of the crater and had seeped lava at some point overnight. Sulphur dioxide and steam were still outgassing during the over flight.
(All photos are copyright USGS)
Keywords: Ash, Big Island, Cone, Crater, Earthquake, Eruption, Fissures, Hawaii, Kilauea, Lava, Leilani Estates, Magma, Pu'u O'o, Royal Gardens, Southeast Rift Zone, USGS, Vent, Volcano
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