Largest overflow in 10 years hits Kilauea’s summit lava lake

HONOLULU — Lava from Kilauea’s summit lava lake recently spilled out of its Overlook crater onto the floor of Halemaumau Crater, resulting in the largest overflow since the summit vent opened up 10 years ago.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists said that Monday’s overflow was the largest of four pulses from the lava lake that escaped onto the crater floor since late Sunday night, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

Scientists also noted a small overflow of the south crater rim at around midnight Saturday.

The observatory last week issued a volcano activity notice warning of the potential for a new vent and lava flow at Puu Oo or along Kilauea’s East Rift Zone.

The notice said the magma system beneath Puu Oo had become increasingly pressurized; leading scientists to think a new vent could open up soon.

“What’s going on? We don’t know for sure,” said Janet Babb, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist.

There could be an increased magma supply in the volcano’s storage system, or there could be some kind of backup in the storage system, Babb said.

The summit lava lake last overflowed in October 2016. It also overflowed in April and May 2015. This week’s overflows represent the third time the summit’s lava lake has risen high enough to spill out onto the crater floor.

The area around Halemaumau remains closed to the public because of the ongoing volcanic hazards, including elevated sulfur dioxide gas emissions and possible rockfalls and explosions.

When Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued its volcano activity notice last week, it was the first time the outpost of the U.S. Geological Service had ever produced a formal warning about a possible new vent, said Steven Brantley, deputy scientist in charge at the observatory.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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