Hawaii Volcano Observatory Downgrades Alert: Any New Threat from Lava Probably “Months Away.”

Hawaii Volcano Observatory has now downgraded the volcano alert level for Kilauea from “Warning” to “watc”h. The  flows near Pahoa are now considered “inactive,” though lava continues to erupt from four breakouts nearer to Pu’u O’o,

“Because the immediate threat from the June 27th lava flow has been reduced, we are reducing the alert level,” read the observatory’s latest update. “Presently, the only active surface lava occurs in four separate breakouts from the main lava tube within three areas in the upper 6 km (4 mi) of the flow field below the Pu’u O’o vent. Lava from these breakouts is moving slowly atop earlier flows and along the margin of the June 27th and the Kahauale’a (2013-2014) flow fields. Based on the rate and trajectory of these active flows, we anticipate that it will be at least months before lava could reach to within 1 mile or 1 week of homes or infrastructure.” At that point, depending on which breakout becomes dominant and on the flows not shutting off entirely, then lava could again threaten either the Hawaiian Acres/Ainaloa area or Pahoa itself.

Hawaii County Civil Defense said there was “little activity in the down slope areas. ” It said the current breakouts “extend from an area approximately 8 miles upslope of the stalled flow fronts to the summit area of Pu’u O’o.”

The ultimate trajectory and path of the lava flow depends on how lava activity evolves in these areas.

But there are important caveats: “At this time, reoccupation of the lava tube that fed lava flows toward the Pahoa Marketplace area is unlikely. Should this occur, however, delivery of lava farther downslope to the currently inactive extent of the June 27th lava flow field could happen more quickly, perhaps within weeks.”  The update also notes,  “This assessment is based on continued lava production at Pu’u O’o at current eruption rates and vent location. Should the eruption rate increase significantly or the locus of eruption shift to a new vent, the conditions of lava flow advance and associated threat could change quickly.”

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