'The million dollar question': Are the eruptions on the Big Island finally slowing down?

Updated: Jul. 26, 2018 at 4:48 PM HST
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VOLCANO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Is fissure no. 8 finally slowing down?

That's a question the U.S. Geological Survey is trying to answer as they watch multiple new developments unfold on Kilauea.

On Thursday, the agency said that the last collapse event at the Kilauea summit happened more than 51 hours ago, which was the longest such interval between collapse events since late May. That streak eventually ended at 54 hours, after a collapse event registered a 5.4 earthquake on Thursday afternoon.

The USGS has also said that recent lava flows seem "sluggish" and the flow in fissure no. 8's lava channel seems to be at lower levels. The fountain of lava bursting from the fissure has also been reported as "relatively low."

With all that in mind, is there any likelihood that fissure 8 might actually be slowing down?

"That really is the million dollar question right now," USGS Geologist Janet Babb said on Thursday afternoon. "We're watching this closely."

Babb says the answer to that question may lie in how future collapse events play out at the summit.

"We need to wait and watch and see how the next collapses occur and to see if the interval between collapses is indeed increasing or if this was just an anomaly," the geologist said.

Collapse events can tell scientists how much lava may be erupting from fissure no. 8. Think of it like air escaping from a balloon. Kilauea's summit is deflating (collapsing), and if the deflating appears to slow, it could be a sign that less lava is escaping to the surface.

That being said, the USGS isn't ruling out the idea that this week's 54-hour break between collapse events could just be an anomaly.

"Right now, we're waiting and watching to see what happens in the coming days," Babb said.

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