Kilauea’s lava flow doubled since July 21
HILO » The current vent on Kilauea volcano's east rift zone is putting out twice as much lava since July 21, compared with the eruptive rate before July 21, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says in its weekly "Volcano Watch" column.
The amount is three times Kilauea's long-term average.
Separately, photos on the observatory Web site show an increasing amount of crust, or cooled lava, on top of the lava river from the vent.
Lava volume and surface crust are factors that can affect whether localized flows might become long-distance flows that could threaten populated areas.
The observatory continues to say there is no danger. "There are no immediate threats directly from lava flows," the Web site said yesterday.
But a longer-term report by observatory head Jim Kauahikaua in August said "future outcomes of the current activity" described in the report "warrant increased public awareness."
For many years nearly all of the lava flowed southeast to the sea. Since July 21 it has flowed inland to the northeast of the rift zone.
More lava means more that can go downhill, the observatory has said. But cooling of the lava, which favors short flows stacking on top of each other, has prevented long flows.
A permanent crust would prevent cooling and allow lava to go much farther. So far the crust is not permanent, but flowing with the lava, Kauahikaua said. It is also thin, breaking apart easily. And the lava river's level rises and falls, which "does not promote good crust growth," he said. But the crust has been growing. "It's sort of a progressive thing," Kauahikaua said.