Lava lake at Kilauea has reached one of its highest levels ever

By Teri Okita – bio | email

KILAUEA SUMMIT (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scientists on the Big Island say it's been an especially active week at Kilauea volcano - as it continues to erupt in two locations: on the east rift zone and at the summit.

The volcanic activity along the summit has died down a little since Monday - when the lava lake at Halemaumau crater reached one of the highest levels ever observed. But it's still fascinating for both geologists and tourists alike.

Kilauea's fiery summit cauldron ripped open this week, and its beauty is matched only by the roar of its fury. Summit activity isn't as intense as it was earlier in the week, but the changes have delighted scientists.

"It is an exciting time for volcanologists," says Janet Babb of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. "This is the job that we're trained to do and the kind of research that we're involved in, so it has been exciting."

On Monday, they watched as a number of rocks fell into Kilauea's summit vent. Sulfur dioxide emissions remain elevated. Babb explains, "Large sections of the rim of the vent fell into the lava lake below. It caused a lot of degassing, and in a few instances, some explosive events that caused a lot of dusty, ashy plumes to rise skyward."

The lava lake at Halemaumau crater reached one of its highest levels ever this week - indicating an increase in the volume of magma. It's been rising steadily since last November, but volcanologists aren't yet sure of its significance.

"We're still seeing these rise fall cycles in the lava lake. Rock falls are still occurring, again not as many as on Monday or Tuesday, but the vent walls continue to break apart, and we expect we'll continue to see this activity in the foreseeable future."

The eruption at Kilauea's east rift zone continues, as well. It's an area peppered with homes and structures, but right now, we're told no homes are in imminent danger.

The eruption hasn't only excited scientists but tourists, as well. Many can hear the snap, crackle, and popping explosions from the Jagger Museum Overlook at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea remains the world's longest, continually-erupting volcano - showcasing that mix of fury and beauty since 1983.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.