Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hawaii Pu’u O’o Lava Flow goes a new direction

Pu'u O'o lava over Chain of Craters Road
We recently toured Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and drove to the end of the Chain of Craters Road where it was covered in lava from Pu’u O’o in 2003.  Pu’u O’o is located on an eastern ridge of Kilauea Volcano that parallels the southern coast of Puna.  Pu’u O’o has been erupting for the past 30 years, since January 1983, sending lava down the southern side of the ridge to the ocean. The lava has destroyed houses, roads, ancient Hawaiian sites, and beaches from Volcanoes National Park to Kalapana.  

USGS map of Pu'u O'o
Now the lava from Pu’u O’o is flowing a different direction.  Instead of the usual southern direction down the ridge to the coast, lava is flowing down the other side of the ridge in a northeastern direction.  In the last few months the lava has flowed 5 miles through a forest heading towards Puna’s eastern coastline. This new flow has been named Kahauale’a 2.

Tim Orr at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recently gave a presentation about the Kahauale’a Lava Flow in an “After Dark in the Park” on January 7.   He presented a map with what he called “fuzzy” predictions of where the lava might flow if the eruption continues.  

These predictions were made using topographic maps and plotting the areas the lava would likely flow.   At the current rate of flow, which stops and starts, he predicts it will not reach a populated area for a year.

When we visit areas around Hawaii Island covered by lava flows, we get philosophical about how fleeting buildings, beaches, and forests can be.
We hope this flow will not follow the predicted path of destruction.


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