WE’VE HAD A lot of explosive volcanic eruptions to discuss over the past few months, but now it’s time for a couple places where lava flows dominate to take center stage. Two of the most active shield volcanoes on Earth saw some new developments last week: Kilauea on Hawai’i and Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island. Let’s run down the action:
After some intense inflation across Kilauea’s summit and a dramatic rise in the summit lava lake, new lava flows have started issuing from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on the East Rift Zone. This demonstrates some of the interconnectedness of the Kilauea magmatic system, where changes in the volcano at the summit can manifest over 18 kilometers down the slopes with with new lava flows at Puʻu ʻŌʻō. The lava flows coincided with a period of strong inflation at the summit and then deflation at Puʻu ʻŌʻō.
The new lava flows are all less than one kilometer long and are no threat to anyone on the island (unlike the infamous Pahoa flow). The USGS map of the new flows shows just how small they are compared to the current active lava flow field fed by the lava tube system under the East Rift. You can check out some video taken of the new flows after an overflight of the area yesterday. In it, you can see the flows flanked by growing levees. They could eventually crust completely over to form some new lava tubes. A thermal image (below) shows how the flows are confined up slope and then branched into into a lava delta when they reached flatter ground.