Where is the Lava Going Now?

Hawaii Volcano Observatory reports that receding lava is now, “barely visible” from the Jaggar Observatory overlook.  The question now: where is the lava going?  As a precaution, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is issuing no overnight camping or back country permits for areas makai of the summit until the scientists have a better idea of what’s happening.

“There was continued deflation at the summit of K?lauea Volcano during the past day, and the rate of deflationary tilt increased yesterday afternoon,” the observatory reported on its Web site.   “The summit lava lake has receded even more so that the lava surface was barely visible from Jaggar Museum this morning. Seismicity beneath the summit and upper East and Southwest Rift Zones remained elevated, with the highest number of earthquakes in the upper Southwest Rift Zone. At the East Rift Zone eruption site, surface flows remained active within about 8 km (5 mi) of the Pu’u ‘O’o vent.”

Park spokesperson Jessica Ferracane said  that lava was still “definitely visible” from the Jaggar overlook, but had dropped 42 feet overnight, to a point about 50 feet below the crater rim. Lava, she said, is normally visible until it falls 70 feet below the edge of the crater.

The back country closures she said, were “strictly precautionary.”  She noted that the park’s vulcanologists were concerned not just about the rapid draining of the lava lake, but also about swarms of small earthquakes which had been happening on the volcano recently.

“The last time something like that happened was in 2011 when the Kamoamoa eruption happened,” she noted.  “It’s problematic for somebody to be out there camping and we’d have to close Chain of Craters Road in the middle of the night and evacauate everyone.”

No one is certain, yet, where the lava that’s leaving the summit crater will go this time.  Park officials will re-evaluate the closures when they know more.  Meanwhile, visitors are free to visit the lower park and its trails during the daytime, but overnight stays are not a forbidden.


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