Crater on Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Eats USGS GPS Station, Device Was Meant to Measure Crater Collapse

Hundreds of homes, acres of land and multiple roads have been destroyed by the lava and activity of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. Now the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has lost a piece of its equipment to the explosions and collapsing events happening around the summit of the volcano.

The North Pit GPS station was situated along the rim of Halemaumau Crater at Kilauea before it was consumed by the volcano. On June 17, the USGS tweeted that NPIT had dropped 300 feet since mid-May. It is now no longer able to transmit data after a drop of 310 feet total, but two other GPS units were put in place so that data would not go unrecorded.

Although the device had been moving downward for more than a month, it really picked up speed on June 8, according to the USGS. It had been on the floor of the caldera, and when that dropped, the NPIT fell into the crater while recording data. The device's goal is to record data about crater collapse and it is likely still recording that data even if it can't transmit it, according to the USGS. The dropping motions resulted in the device misaligning with the observatory, so the data doesn't have a clear shot.

The two new units that were installed to record the collapses were not installed on a part of the caldera that's actively slumping like the NPIT device was. The data the devices are recording is available online.

In addition to the lost GPS, an old parking lot also slumped into the crater in the same area of the volcano last week. The volcano remains active, with explosions and collapses continuing. The latest explosion occurred Monday evening, Hawaii standard time, and produced a small plume of steam and volcanic ash but otherwise posed little threat, according to the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency.

While these explosions aren't that dangerous, the flow that fissure 8 has been producing for weeks is potentially a danger. The hot, molten lava from fissure 8 is flowing to the cool ocean water and entering the Pacific at Kapoho. This creates a laze, or lava haze, plume at the entry point that contains harmful gases like hydrochloric acid. It can cause damage to the lungs and skin.

The sulfur dioxide coming from the lava can be dangerous as well and can cause respiratory problems for those who are exposed to it.

The United States Geological Survey North Pit GPS station fell down more than 300 feet with the caldera and can no longer transmit data. USGS