Lava Update | February 1, 2018

A preflight check of satellite imagery showed a stationary band of weather just inland and parallel to the southeast coast of the island, but clear skies over Hilo gave us an opportunity to at least make an attempt at accessing the eruption zone. As the cell sat over Pulama Pali and the area just above it, we had a choice to make, access the activity from the coastal plain, or start at the vent, and being that we could kind of make out the silhouette of Pu‘u ‘O‘o, we headed there first. The lava lake didn’t disappoint, as its surface was bubbling and spattering with a vigor, and winds blowing out of the southwest gave us a different perspective than we normally have. After spending a few minutes there, we moved just downslope to an area of fresh breakouts, not more than a half mile away. Rain began to fall as we circled the area and before long, we were in an extremely heavy downpour… steam billowed from the flow field and totally obscured our view of the flow itself… continuing on was an impossibility, so our flight was cut short…  but not before being able to capture imagery of the incredible action!

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Shifty winds, initially blowing out of the southwest, allowed us have a different perspective of Pu‘u ‘O‘o’s lava lake. The intensely glowing surface bubbled and spattered as we hovered over its western rim.
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The lava lake’s surface cracked and foundered, as bubbling occurred in several spots.
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Vigorous spattering splashes lava onto the lake’s cooled skin… of course, “cooled” is a relative term.
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The edge of a hardened portion of the lava lake’s cracked surface creates an amazing abstract.
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A downpour creates voracious cloud of steam, engulfing the entire active breakout.
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Pressure from within a cooled lobe, ruptures its crust, and oozes pahoehoe and advances its progression.
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Huge raindrops pelted us from all angles (as can be seen in this frame), as winds swirled around us, making it impossible to keep our gear, and ourselves, dry. Steam rose from the entire flow, obscuring our view of the active breakout.

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