Halemaumau emits pinkish ash in blast
A third small explosion occurred early yesterday morning at Halemaumau Crater, sending pinkish ash downwind across Crater Rim Drive and the parking lot of the crater overlook, scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported.
Volcano fumes prompt brief evacuation alert
Unusual wind conditions pushed sulfur dioxide into part of Kau, forcing Hawaii County Civil Defense officials to issue an evacuation warning yesterday morning.
"Whatever weather effect ... that pushed the emissions into the area of Hawaiian Ocean View Estates has dissipated," said Civil Defense Administrator Quince Mento. "We're not sure of the reason for the effect; it just seems to have (passed)."
Southerly winds usually blow fumes into Kau, but the winds were northeasterly yesterday, Mento said.
At about 7:45 a.m., Civil Defense issued an evacuation warning, canceling it at 10 a.m. when air quality returned to safe levels.
The explosion happened just before 4 a.m. and was preceded by a slight deflation and inflation of Kilauea, said geologist Janet Babb, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The vent is being monitored 24 hours a day, but the explosion was not seen by scientists because of foggy conditions, Babb said.
Scientists believe lava remains at a shallow depth below a new vent at Halemaumau. A glow can be seen in the vent, which continues to emit clouds of white smoke.
The vent first appeared on March 12, releasing up to 2,500 metric tons of gas a day.
The last explosion at the vent was on April 9. Ash from the blast was carried downwind to Pahala, the observatory said.
The first explosion at the Halemaumau vent occurred on March 19 and sent boulders flying over a 75-acre area.
Babb said yesterday's explosion, the April 9 explosion and the opening of the vent on March 12 were all preceded by deflation and inflation at the summit.
The deflation and inflation is an indication that lava is moving beneath the surface, but scientists are still trying to figure out the connection between what they call "d/i" events and the new vent.
The pinkish ash created by the blast was likely due to more oxidized rocks, which are red, being pulverized by the explosion, Babb said.
Scientists who visited the vent yesterday said it did not appear that the explosion enlarged the vent or ejected any heavy rocks or boulders.
The explosions inside Halemaumau are the first in the crater since 1924.
Babb said it is not clear whether recent events could lead to lava actually coming to the surface at Kilauea.
"It's not really known what it means," Babb said. "The assumption is the magma is still close to the surface, because there's a lot of gas coming out."