See Lava Flows from Hawaii’s Kilauea Change Paths in New Satellite Photos

See Lava Flows from Hawaii's Kilauea Change Paths in New Satellite Photos

The tale of Hawaii’s recent volcanic eruptions continues to change, much like its fierce lava flows, and new images from space tell the latest chapter.

Two satellites and a camera-wielding astronaut captured powerful overhead views of the active Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. Images taken from late May to Sunday (June 10) show molten material churning out from volcanic fissures on a journey toward the Pacific Ocean on the southeast corner of the island. Volcanic smog, known as vog, rises into the air.

The devastation left in the volcano’s wake is palpable in the time-lapse imagery released by officials at the European Space Agency (ESA) on June 8. The ESA Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite captured the changing paths that the bright-orange lava rivers took to enter the Pacific Ocean. Distinct paths are apparent when viewing the May 23 and June 8 photos one after the other.

In a related image caption, ESA officials shared that the lava flows have destroyed around 700 homes, calling the flows’ rapid property destruction unprecedented.

Bob Fenton, FEMA administrator for the region, said assessments are taking place to determine if renters and homeowners will be eligible for individual FEMA assistance, which would offer payouts averaging $4,000 and maxing out at $34,000. He said nonprofit organizations are currently offering the bulk of resources and assistance to evacuees, and he encouraged people who have insurance to use it.

“While the Sentinel-2 mission mainly provides information for agricultural and forestry practices and to map changes in land cover, its images of disasters such as volcanic eruptions can be used to help assess damage,” ESA officials stated.

Officials on Hawaii’s Big Island let some people back into their homes and scaled down emergency operations Monday as lava flowed into the ocean on a path that wasn’t threatening new areas.

“We’ve pretty much thrown everything at this event” since a series of lava fissures began emerging from cracks in neighborhood last month, Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency Administrator Talmadge Magno said Monday. “Some aspects of it can kind of start to scale down as the volcano somewhat runs into a stable situation.”

His definition of stable means that lava continues to flow along a path toward the ocean that isn’t threatening additional areas. It was flowing north and then east toward a community the lava wiped out last week.

Officials are transitioning to recovery efforts, with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is starting to do damage assessments, Magno said.

There was “not a lot of change” to the lava flow, said Janet Babb, a geologist with the USGS’ Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Lava was shooting into the sky from one vent and there was “weak” activity at two other fissures, which weren’t producing much of a flow and not advancing very far, Babb said.

It’s possible a new fissure will open, or vigorous flows could emerge from vents that have been inactive. Magno said additional workers can be called in if conditions change.

Another view came in on June 3, when the WorldView-3 satellite from space-imagery company DigitalGlobe caught the devastation as active lava flows approached Kapoho Bay. DigitalGlobe released the color, near-infrared and shortwave infrared resolution imagery via tweet the following day, June 4. [Photos: Fiery Lava from Kilauea Volcano Erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island]

And on Sunday (June 10), NASA astronaut and Expedition 56 Cmdr. Drew Feustel tweeted an image of vog emanating from the island’s coast and at other points along the lava’s paths. “Expedition 56 is thinking of Hawaii as the dynamic Earth continues to evolve,” Feustel shared in the Twitter post.

At Kilauea’s summit, there continue to be explosions that shoot plumes of ash into the sky. There were two small blasts Monday, including one after a magnitude-5.4 earthquake, scientists said.

A National Weather Service radar unit has been helping provide data about the heights of the ash plumes and the direction of ash fall. But the unit has been broken since Thursday. A part for repairs was expected soon, said Robert Ballard, science and operations officer for the weather service in Honolulu.

Mary Greeley News