What's New at the Volcano!

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Recent Activity at Pu'u O'o:

The vent area around Pu'u O'o is changing on a month by month basis. Here we present two recent views that we have had of the volcano -- but recognize that on April 30th, 1997, there was yet another new eruption here, so that even now we do not have a current picture of the volcano!



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The U.S. Geological Survey has put out this map, which shows the location of the January 1997 flows within Napau Crater, and the April 1997 lava flows from Pu'u O'o. Notice how activity from Pu'u O'o has covered much of the land to its south through the long series of eruptions that started back in 1983.



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In late January 1997, five new fissures opened up just uprift from Pu'u O'o in Napau Crater and produced several new lava flows. We were lucky to be able to visit these fissures within a week of the activity. Ground cracks were very common on the floor of Napau Crater. We found many examples such as the ones shown here that followed the general trend of the active fissures.



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Scott Rowland explored some of the fumaroles around the fissures that were still degassing over a week after the eruption ended. Scientists from the US Geological Survey have recorded a steady decrease in the rate of release of sulfur dioxide in this area since the eruption, so that most of the fume that we see here is water vapor.



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A suprise to many people was the fact that one of the January fissures opened up on the rim of Napau Crater. Here we can see the cooled lava flow on the wall. At the time that we visited Napau, there were several large rockfalls taking place, indicating that the area was still unstable.



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We did not have time to hike all of the way out to the Pu'u O'o cone, but even from a distance it was clear that the cone had changed its shape dramatically. Here we see two views of the cone, looking downrift. The area that we see here is the side of the cone where the April activity (see below) took place.


This next set of pictures were taken from a commercial helicopter flight by Fritz Hasler (from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center) on April 16th, 1997. We thank Fritz for making them avaialble to us for Virtually Hawaii.



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Looking inside the remnants of the Pu'u O'o cone, just a small area of active lava was visible (arrowed). The level of the crater floor is much higher than has typically been seen in recent months. Notice some collapse pits on the crater floor.



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Flying around the uprift side of the Pu'u O'o cone, the extent of the collapse that has dramatically modified the cone can easily be seen. The lavas covering the crater floor were erupted as part of the episode 55 eruption.



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All of the new episode 55 activity outside the Pu'u O'o cone is concentrated on the uprift side. This "lava cascade" was formed by lava draining out of the lava lake via a tube in the cone wall.



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Between April 11 to 18, a new lava flow over 2 km long was formed to the south of the cone. In this view, taken looking south from a point almost over Pu'u O'o, we can see the active lava channel (arrowed). The direction of flow is from right to left.



Author: Pete Mouginis-Mark

Copyright by P. Mouginis-Mark

Curator: Lori Glaze