Lava issuing from the current eruptions at Kilauea have started a third ocean entry (and the second within the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park). The entry is not as dramatic as some, forming a slow, dripping entry of lava into the ocean (see linked video footage), but every little drip adds a little more land to the big island of Hawai’i.
In some other Hawaiian volcano news, the USGS have also posted a video showing the filling and draining of the lava lake in Halemaumau that started last year. Usually, the crater was surrounded by steam and fumes from the degassing magma, but the thermal camera pierced the veil to show the lava rising and falling within the crater.
I get a fairly steady stream of emails from Eruptions readers, some of which are very worth a post, but sometimes it takes me a while to get around to posting. This is my second attempt to catch up on these mailbag emails. Remember, feel free to email me questions or comments whether you want.
- Reader Aldo Piombino sent me an email last month after my post on potential Antarctic volcanism asking about some more unknown volcanoes. He brings up Mt. Marsili in the Tyrrhenian Sea (including a post of his own, in Italian), a volcano of which I was not aware. It is a submarine volcano (info on the volcano halfway down the page) off the coast of Italy that looks to be pretty big, but not much is known about it beyond that it is likely active but dormant. This volcano is related to fast seafloor spreading in the basin, at rates as high as 19 cm/yr! The other volcano Aldo mentions is Vavilov, another submarine volcano off Italy.
- Brian Owens sent me a link with a video from a CCTV camera in Pasto, Colombia that captured a Strombolian eruption of Galeras. Nice stuff.
Thanks for the emails!
Although this news isn’t as threatening as the title of the article implies: HAWAII LAVA FLOW NEARS NATIONAL PARK, it is still some news as it could be the first lava flow to cross into the park in over a lava. The flow itself is headed towards what is called the “Waikupanaha ocean entry” on the southeast side of the island. The lava flow has about one mile to go before it reaches the Pacific Ocean, but it has travelled several hundred feet (maybe 100 meters) over the last 10 days according to Park Rangers and USGS geologists monitoring the flow’s progress.
Of course, compared to your average pyroclastic flow or lahar, traveling at tens to hundreds kilometers per hour, tracking this lava flow is a little bit like watching paint dry (except, of course, it is lava). It shows the whole different level of volcanic hazard presented by Hawaiian volcanism versus Plinian (explosive) volcanism, where the level of concern at the park can be summed up with “Our idea is not to control and prevent. Our idea is to educate.”
A quick update from Reunion Island on this fairly slow week, volcanically speaking:
“After permanent unrest with daily 30 to 100 seismic events, Piton de
la Fournaise volcano erupted again on Thursday November 27, 2008 at
11h50. The eruption is situated on the west side within the Dolomieu
crater at the same vent as the September 21 eruption and can probably
be considered as a second phase of the later.”
This comes from the Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise (OVPF – link in French). Piton de la Fournaise is a shield volcano on Reunion Island that sees frequent basaltic eruptions, like many hotspot-related oceanic island volcanoes (such as Hawai’i).
Sounds like we’re beginning to get a better idea of what is erupting in Ethiopia. Ghezahegn Yirgu, a geologist at Addis Ababa University, reports that Dalla Filla Dalaffilla Volcano is the source of the eruption. Again, the eruption is being characterized as “lava flows” rather than an explosive eruption, which may be surprising considering the amount of volcanic gases being released (see Boris Bechnke’s highly useful comment). However, some mostly effusive eruptions have released a lot of volcanic gases in the past – see Laki, Iceland in 1783 – so a preponderance of flows at Dalla Filla Dalaffilla would not be shocking.
Now, there is surprisingly little information I can find about Dalla Filla – in fact, it doesn’t even appear in the GVP database or, for that matter, almost anywhere on the internet. The volcano is located, according to the article linked above, about 20 km north of Erta Ale, so it is in a region of active East African Rift volcanism. The map above (from the USGS) shows all the volcanoes in the area that have known eruptions since 1800, so unless Dalla Filla is being confused with Dallol, it might be the first eruption of the volcano in quite some time. I’ll update once I can find more information on Dalla Filla (and feel free to comment here if you know more than I).
REVISED (11/6/08): Apparently, the volcano in question is Dalaffilla, which shows up in the GVP website (Thanks Ole and Ron). There isn’t much information on Dalaffilla, except that, surprisingly, it appears to be a silicic volcano. The reports I’ve read so far seem to indicate that lava flows have spread out over a large area, which would suggest a low viscosity (i.e., basaltic) lava. Thanks to the Eruptions readers who dug out some great information.
In one of the most oddly worded articles I’ve seen from the BBC, a lava flow from Erta Ale an unidentified volcano in the Erte Ale range in Ethiopia has erupted a significant amount of lava. The headline states “Ethiopia volcano sets lava record”, which is strange on multiple counts, but mostly because I’m not familiar with any “lava records”, who might keep track of them and what, exactly, this “lava record” is. In fact, they don’t even mention it in the article itself. They do, however, point out that lava from this eruption has covered 300 square kilometers, which is a decent chunk of real estate, but no mention is made of how long it took to do this (or what type of lava, for that matter, but it is likely basalt). So, take this article as you will. The take home message is that Erte Ale a volcano in the Erta Ale range, near Alu, has had a significant eruption with some associated earthquakes to go along with it.
Erta Ale is located on the East African Rift in Ethiopia – part of the Erte Ale Range – and is a fairly active shield volcano that erupts basaltic lava flows from both the central vent and from fissues, along with sometimes have a lava lake in the main caldera. These eruptions aren’t too much of a danger to the people who live near the volcano as it mostly issues lava flows rather than erupting explosively. It hasn’t erupted since 1967 according to the GVP, however, the volcano did erupt in 2005 (see above), displacing thousands of people.
NEW INFORMATION (2200 Pacific Time)
Just got this email about the eruption in northern Afar, Ethiopia. Sounds like it has released a significant amount of sulfur into the atmosphere:
Satellite instruments detected an eruption in northern Afar, Ethiopia
on November 3. The eruption first manifested itself as a large sulfur
dioxide (SO2) cloud drifting eastwards over the Arabian peninsula,
detected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and the Atmospheric
Infrared Sounder (AIRS). MODIS data from the University of Hawaii’s
MODVOLC hot-spot monitoring tool (http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu)
confirmed an extensive hot-spot (presumably lava flows) near Alu
volcano, in the northern part of the Erta ‘Ale range. Details are
still sketchy and these observations are as yet unconfirmed from the
A total of 0.1-0.2 Tg of SO2 was measured in the eruption cloud by OMI
at ~1100 UT on November 4, by which time the SO2 cloud had reached
southern Iran. Using the OMI SO2 data and radiosonde soundings,
observed SO2 cloud drift yields a preliminary estimate of the eruption
onset time of 1400-1600 UT on November 3.
More details as they are available.
The headline for this entry sounds more dramatic than it is, but one of the last structures in the ill-fated Royal Gardens subdivision on the big island of Hawai’i finally met its fiery demise over the weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with the plight of the subdivision, Royal Gardens is part of Kalapana, and it was unfortunately situated quite close to the Pu’u O’o rift that has been erupting since 1983. Most of the subdivision has been overrun by lava flows since then, but one of the last two structures still being used was done in by the basaltic lava. The first link has a great map showing the October lava flows and where they have gone, along with some stills of the flows overtaking the house (in the video).
On Sunday afternoon, a large ash eruption occurred at Halemaumau Caldera at Kilauea. Not only did the volcano belch more grey ash than usual, but also red-hot incandescent material can be clearly seen being thrown from the vent during the vigorous eruption. The coolest thing about the eruption is that it was all caught on film by the USGS/HVO. Take a look (at three times speed) – this video is from the morning of October 12, but there are a series of video from the whole weekend on the website.
It seems that a new fissure eruption has begun at Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean*. In fact, the report goes onto say that a small lava lake has formed at the main crater of the eruption. This marks the first eruption at Piton de la Fournaise since March 2007.
Piton de la Fournaise is a large shield volcano associated with the Reunion Island Hotspot. The volcano has frequent eruptions, mostly in the form of effusive lava flows of basalt, similar to the Hawaiian volcanoes. This could be an interesting new eruption because the initial eruptions suggest this is a flank eruption outside the caldera, but this might just be a product of a mistaken report.
*Update 9/21/08: Thanks to Anthony for noticing that Reunion Island is in the Indian Ocean, not the Pacific. Sorry about misplacing the island!
Not sure how it was kept quiet for most of the week (well, at least to me), but geologists at the HVO have noticed a new lava lake in Halemaumau Caldera on Kilauea (Hawai’i). The lava lake is around 330 feet (~100 meters) below the crater rim and ~160 feet (50 meters) across with sections of reddish, glowing lava and black crust on the surface. It seems that an explosion on Tuesday helped reveal the lava lake from the surface. The USGS has posted some video of the lava lake for your enjoyment. There are only a few active lava lakes worldwide (such as those at Villarrica in Chile and Erebus in Antarctica), so it is always exciting when a new one forms. The longevity of lava lakes is controlled (partially) by the supply rate of magma to the vent area, so it will be interesting to see how long it lasts.
Here is the official word on the lava lake from the USGS:
For the first time since the new vent opened in Halema`uma`u Crater on
March 19, HVO scientists in a helicopter hovering over the crater were
able to see the surface of a sloshing 50 m (160 ft) diameter lava lake
about 100 m (330 ft) below the vent rim. HVO scientists have speculated
that a lava pond existed a few hundred meters below the vent, but have not
been able to get visual confirmation until this morning.
A second viewing early this afternoon revealed a roiling pond with
multiple bursting bubbles changing into a central upwelling circulation
pattern. The lake level dropped slightly before the cycle restarted. This
behavior has been witnessed before, most recently in Pu`u `O`o vents and
the July 21 lava ponds on Kilauea’s east rift zone, and is known as ‘gas
pistoning.’ One model explains pistoning as small gas bubbles coalescing
into larger bubbles beneath a crust on a lava pond, rising to the surface,
and then bursting. The released pulse of hot gas carries rock dust from
the collapsing vent walls, bits of the lava lake crust, and small amounts
The Halema`uma`u vent has produced six significant explosive eruptions in
the past 5.5 months, most recently on September 2, 2008 at 8:13 p.m.
H.s.t., during which noteworthy amounts of fresh lava spatter and lithic
material (rock fragments and dust) were ejected on to the crater rim. Just
prior to this event, incandescence from the vent was almost nonexistent
except for brief pulses of glow.
Nearly eight hours later, Kilauea’s summit abruptly inflated, signaling
the end of 39 hours of deflation. Summit deflation-inflation (DI) events
have been observed at least 20 times since the Halema`uma`u vent opened.
Each DI event has been interpreted as the fall and subsequent rise in
magma levels beneath the summit.
Less than 8 hours after inflation started, episodic tremor bursts began
which are visible at night as pulses of bright incandescence every 5-6
minutes. Episodic tremor bursts have been a nearly constant feature of
the Halema`uma`u vent over the past few months and were one of the early
pieces of evidence pointing toward a gas pistoning source.
This unusually bright incandescence over the past two nights and the
volume of material erupted on September 2 are consistent with a lava
surface at relatively shallow depths beneath the vent. Molten lava is not
directly visible from the Jaggar Museum overlook, but that vantage point
provides excellent views of the glowing vent at night.
Jim Kauahikaua, Scientist-in-Charge
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory