Kilauea Volcano Update: USGS Maps, Photos Show How Lava Coverage Has Expanded

Entire homes and the neighborhoods they were in have been destroyed and buried in feet of lava coming from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. Since the volcano first erupted, in early May, the lava has come from fissures across the island, some of them right in the middle of people's neighborhoods.

The latest update from the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency warned that the highly active Fissure 8 continued to send a flow of lava into the ocean where Kapoho Bay used to be. Additionally, the agency said that the emissions from the eruption and the flows were still high, and that those in the area and southwest of the volcano should take caution.

The gases coming from the volcano, especially sulfur dioxide, can irritate the skin and eyes and cause respiratory issues. Those with pre-existing breathing problems should take extra precaution because the gas is a strong irritant.

The amount of land covered by lava has greatly increased since May 15, when the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released the map below.

may 15 map
Map as of 6:45 a.m. HST, May 15, shows the location of the ‘a‘ā lava flow spreading from fissure 17; the flow front at the time is shown by the small red circle with label. USGS

The purple color on the map indicates where a past flow erupted. The increase in new flows is indicated in red and pink shading. The second and more recent map is from June 10 and shows where the latest flows are, including the spots where lava is actively flowing into the ocean.

june 10 map
Map as of 12:00 p.m. (noon) HST, June 10, 2018. Given the dynamic nature of Kīlauea's lower East Rift Zone eruption, with changing vent locations, fissures starting and stopping, and varying rates of lava effusion, map details shown here are accurate as of the date/time noted. USGS

As the lava made its way out of the fissures and across the island, it grew closer and closer to the ocean. It was traveling at a rate of roughly 250 feet an hour in the direction of Kapoho Bay on June 3, according to the USGS.

june 3 bay
Photo from 7 a.m. helicopter overflight on June 3, hovering offshore and looking up the flow front. Nearly all of the front was active and advancing; advance rates were estimated at an average of 250 feet per hour. USGS

By evening that same day in Hawaii, the lava reached the ocean and was pouring in from Fissure 8 further inland.

june 4 bay
An overflight photograph, at approximately 6:13 a.m. HST, shows lava flow originating from Fissure 8 (not visible in photograph) and entering Kapoho Bay. The ocean entry was reported to have occurred by 10:30 p.m. the night of June 3. USGS

A few days later, on June 5, the bay was completely filled with lava. Houses and all of the vegetation in the path of the lava were also destroyed and covered in it.

kapoho bay filled
By the morning of June 5, the Fissure 8 lava flow had completely filled Kapoho Bay. USGS

The European Space Agency shared satellite images of the island that compared the lava and smoke coverage on May 23 to the coverage on June 7. Much more smoke and gas coming from the spots where the volcano was erupting and where the lava was entering the ocean was visible in the photo from June 7 than in the earlier one.

Lava flowing into the cool ocean water causes something called "laze," a sort of lava haze made of hydrochloric acid, steam and volcanic glass particles. It can cause lung damage and irritate the eyes and skin.

Lava keeps flowing from #Kilauea on #Hawaii’s Big Island. Here's a comparison of the same area captured by @CopernicusEU #Sentinel2 on 23 May and on 7 June.

— ESA (@esa) June 8, 2018