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Tremors in Hawaii

Over 30 small earthquakes shook the island of Hawaii in late December 2012.

These tremors are signs of magma moving underground, feeding two ongoing eruptions at Kilauea volcano.

A sticky, slow-moving stream of lava called pahoehoe is crossing the coastal plain east of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, dripping into the ocean and creating a delta.

The lava flow is 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) wide, according to a statement from the U.S Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

Lava entering the ocean builds lava deltas. The lava delta and adjacent areas are some of the most hazardous areas on the flow field.

Frequent delta/bench collapses give little warning, can produce explosions capable of throwing both dense and molten rocks hundreds of meters (yards) in all directions (inland as well as out to sea), and can produce damaging local waves. The steam plume produced by lava entering the ocean contains fine lava fragments and an assortment of acid droplets that can be harmful to your health.

The rapidly changing conditions near the ocean entry have been responsible for many injuries and a few deaths.

Lava has repeatedly streamed into the ocean from Kilauea’s east rift zone since the volcano began its current eruption on Jan. 3, 1983. The lava oozes forth from rift vents fed by its Pu’uO’o crater. The crater itself holds a small lava lake, and several small lava flows erupted onto the crater floor in the past week.

To the northwest, a lava lake at Halema’uma’u crater, at the top of Kilauea, continues to rise and fall. The lava lake “breathes” as magma levels change within the volcano, and it hit a high on Oct. 29 before receding. The summit lava lake is deep within a cylindrical vent with nearly vertical sides. The lake level surged to within 100 feet (31 meters) of the top of the vent at that high point.

Deep inside the volcano, the vent supplying Halema’uma’u crater is connected to the actively erupting Pu’uO’o crater.

Kilauea was stable and continued to erupt at two locations: At the summit, deformation and the lava lake level were stable. At Pu`u `O`o, there were small lava flows on the crater floor. A lava flow was active on the coastal plain but lava has not entered the ocean since Monday. Seismic tremor levels were low and gas emissions were elevated.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

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