(BIVN) – On Tuesday, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory released Unmanned Aircraft Systems video footage of a Kīlauea Volcano summit flyover recorded on September 6. The UAS team completed its mission, mapping changes within the caldera.
“Since August 4, 2018, the number of earthquakes at the summit have decreased and the rate of subsidence has stabilized,” the USGS reported. “Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rates at the summit is less than 200 tonnes/day, which is lower than at any time since late 2007.”
“Limited UAS flights into this hazardous area are conducted with permission and coordination with Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park,” USGS said. “Scientists examine the UAS data in detail to understand how the collapse area is evolving and to assess hazards at Kīlauea’s summit, all of which is shared with the National Park Service and emergency managers.”
In the video above, the UAS video is paired with a short segment of an August 30 talk in Menlo Park, California featuring USGS research geophysicist Kyle Anderson. The talk was entitled “What on Earth is going on at Kilauea Volcano?”
Since the summit collapse began, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory located at the Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook, as well as the greater area of the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, has been closed to the public.
When asked if he expects the observatory will still be usable at some point, Anderson answered that he did not know. “This eruption’s been really challenging for HVO. You can imagine responding to the the biggest event in generations while your office is being destroyed by earthquakes,” Anderson reflected, to a round of laughter. “The state of the building? It’s a good question. There will be structural engineers going in to evaluate it. I don’t know what the outcome will be. There are advantages and disadvantages to being that close to a volcano. It really was a fantastic place to be to be in.”
“It was unbeatable, but for really outlier unusual events like this it was close,” Anderson said.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is presently working towards the goal of opening some closed areas of the park by September 22. Some of the most recent updates on the ongoing recovery, according to the National Park Service:
- September 4: assessments continue and the park interdisciplinary team met for reopening planning. Briefings for current commercial guides and tour companies were scheduled for September 13 and 14.
- September 5: the park announced a partnership with Mainstreet Pahoa Association and ongoing discussions to loan exhibit features from Jaggar Museum to a proposed visitor center site in downtown Pahoa.
- September 6: non-potable water was restored to the Volcano House.
- September 9: non-potable water restored to 12 buildings. 54 buildings have been inspected for earthquake damage. 29 miles of trail have been evaluated for safety concerns and damage repair needs. Additional National Park Service assessment teams arrived to document earthquake damage and make damage repair estimates.
- September 10: inspections of sewage lines at Kīlauea Visitor Center were completed finding no damage and the most critical public restrooms in the park are now determined to be safe for use.
- September 11: a Federal Highways Administration team began assessing earthquake damage on park roads and making emergency repairs.
UPDATE – Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park issued this safety message on Wednesday:
As we prepare to welcome the world back to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, we want to ensure that the public and our staff are as safe as possible. Many hazards exist in the park, as they always have, however some are more dangerous now than before the unprecedented seismic activity. Being prepared and informed before coming to the park will ensure that your visit is safe and enjoyable.
For your safety, use only open trails and roads. Closed trails and roads are dangerous, do not enter. Pukas, holes or cracks in the ground, are prevalent throughout the park but are often hidden under vegetation or ash. These unstable and dangerous features can collapse at any time and may have fragile edges or be undercut. If possible, hike and travel with at least one other person and let someone know where you plan to visit.
Stay away from cliff edges and be aware of rockfalls that may occur as the land continues to settle after tens of thousands of recent earthquakes and caldera collapses.
Volcanic ash is now present in many areas, especially the Ka‘ū Desert, where whirlwinds of ash are observed swirling across the landscape every day. It is highly recommended that visitors carry protective eyewear and an N-95 particulate mask for hiking the Footprints Trail into the Ka‘ū Desert. Conditions may suddenly become hazardous during high wind events and particulates in the air can cause eye and lung irritation. Pele’s Hair, fine threads of volcanic glass, is present in many areas and can be extremely abrasive and harmful to respiratory systems and exposed skin.
Wear sturdy shoes and long pants. Falling on lava rock is like falling on broken glass. There is very little shade in lava fields around the park and temperatures may be much higher than surrounding areas. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. The park’s water remains unsafe to drink. All visitors should bring at least two quarts or more of drinking water per person.
Do not hike after dark due to new hazards in the area. Even those who are familiar with the park should be cautious while hiking because of these hazards.
Although sulfur dioxide is at the lowest recorded levels since 2007, air quality may change at any time. If the air irritates your lungs, smells bad, or you have difficulty breathing leave the area immediately. The Kīlauea Visitor Center offers updates on air quality, as does the park air quality monitoring website.
Help keep our National Park Service staff safe. When unauthorized persons enter closed areas, they are not only endangering themselves, but also the NPS rangers who may have to rescue them. Monetary fines for entering a closed area are steep and trespassers may also receive up to six months of jail time.
Molten lava is no longer present or visible anywhere in the park. The recent eruption saw the disappearance of the lava lake inside Halema‘uma‘u crater at the summit and lava flows from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō have ceased.
Inspections of park infrastructure continue. National Park Service assessment teams have now inspected 54 buildings and restored non-potable water to 12 buildings. 29 miles of trail have also been evaluated. At this time, there is no drinking water available in the park. Please plan accordingly before your arrival at Hawai‘i Volcanoes, as services may be extremely limited.
For more information, visit the park’s website.