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LAVA CONTINUES TO ENTER SEA

This update current as of September 12, 1997

[Eruption updates are posted approximately every two weeks. More frequent updates will accompany drastic changes in activity or increased threat to residential areas.]

[Previous eruption updates may be accessed through our archive index.]

The 55th episode of Kilauea's 14.5-year-long east rift zone eruption continues. This episode, which began February 24, 1997, has been characterized by shifting vent locations on the west and southwest flanks of Pu`u `O`o cone, rapid enlargement of the episode 50-55 lava shield, and, for the last two months, nearly continuous activity inside the Pu`u `O`o crater.

During the last six weeks, eruptive activity has been concentrated at two main vents: the "crater cone", a spatter cone on the Pu`u `O`o crater floor, and the "south shield", a new lava shield about 300 m south of the Pu`u `O`o cone.

The crater cone generally has moderate-to-high effusion rates. Lava from this vent either forms a pond in the eastern half of the Pu`u `O`o crater or drains through holes in the crater floor. Several times between mid-June and early August, the pond rose until it overtopped the crater rim to either the west or east. The last and most voluminous pond overflow occurred August 6 and produced pahoehoe flows that extended 1.2 km to the northeast.

The south shield vent is the source of the flows entering the ocean at the Waha`ula and Kamokuna sites near the eastern boundary of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. The flows are encased within lava tubes for most of their length and are only visible through skylights in the roof of the tube. During the last two weeks, surface flows have been limited to short-lived breakouts from the tubes on the coastal plain.

Both ocean entries have formed lava benches, where new land is building out beyond the former seacliffs. These benches can collapse into the sea without warning, triggering steam explosions that hurl dense rock and molten spatter tens of meters inland. No one should venture onto the benches, no matter how stable the new land may appear.

Eruption-viewing opportunities are constantly changing, so those readers planning a visit to the volcano should contact Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park for the most current eruption information.


This map current as of September 12, 1997

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Updated: 31 March 1998