Kilauea lava flow could potentially threaten homes

A view into the tube supplying lava to the front of the June 27 lava flow, taken August 14, 2014. (Photo: USGS)

Scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are closely monitoring an active lava flow that, if it continues to advance, could threaten residential areas or infrastructure in the coming weeks to months.

The June 27th lava flow, named for the date it began erupting, is advancing to the northeast of its vent on the flank of Pu’u ‘Ō’ō on Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone.

As of Friday, August 22, the front of the flow was 10.7 km (6.6 mi) northeast of the vent. At this point, scientists say it is not an immediate threat.

HVO scientists, who mapped the flow during an overflight Friday morning, report that the flow was active along two fronts. The northern branch was advancing northeastward across fairly flat land, while the southern branch had flowed into a ground crack within the rift zone. By tracing the steam issuing from the crack, lava is inferred to have advanced 1.4 km (0.9 mi) over the past four days, putting it 3.8 km (2.4 mi) from the eastern boundary of the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve.

The difficulty in forecasting the flow’s exact path is that “downhill of the flow” can be affected by subtle variations in topography, changes in lava supply and where and how lava enters or exits ground cracks along the rift zone.

The June 27th lava flow is advancing through a heavily forested area on Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone. This area of the rift zone is exceedingly hazardous to hikers as it is highly fractured, with numerous, deep ground cracks that are difficult to see because of the heavy vegetation. Another hazard in the area includes methane explosions that occur when lava flows over vegetated land.

The June 27th lava flow is currently within the Kahaualea Natural Area Reserve, which has been closed by the Hawaii State Department of Natural Land and Resources due to the ongoing volcanic hazards, and the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve, also closed by DLNR and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

HVO continues to closely monitor the June 27th lava flow through increased overflights, satellite imagery, and webcam images, and is keeping Hawaii County Civil Defense fully informed about the flow’s location.

The public can track the lava flow activity through maps, photos, and daily eruption updates posted online here. Should the lava flow become an immediate threat to residential areas or infrastructure, HVO will begin posting more frequent updates. Updates for Hawaii’s active volcanoes and earthquake data for the State of Hawaii are posted on the USGS HVO website.

Taken August 14, 2014, the June 27 lava flow remains active as a narrow lobe pushing through thick forest northeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, triggering small brush fires. (Photo: USGS)
Taken August 14, 2014, the June 27 lava flow remains active as a narrow lobe pushing through thick forest northeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, triggering small brush fires. (Photo: USGS)

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