An ash plume rises from Kilauea volcano on May 23, 2018. (USGS)
By Eric Mack
Much of the destruction from the ongoing eruption of Kilauea over the past several weeks has been centered on the lower Eastern Rift Zone, away from the volcano’s main summit within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Two dozen fissures have erupted in the rift zone, sending lava flows to the ocean and destroying entire communities in the process.
All of the magma that is feeding those rivers of lava has been draining out of Halema‘uma‘u, Kilauea’s summit crater, causing the walls of the crater to collapse and fall in on themselves. The result is a destabilized and widening crater that is reshaping the summit and portions of the popular park.
— USGS Volcanoes (@USGSVolcanoes) June 21, 2018
On Wednesday, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory shared the above imagery from a helicopter overflight showing that a retired overlook parking lot near the crater is now slumping into the crater itself. The parking area has been closed since 2008, so there’s no worry that anyone may see their car becoming one with the magma below.
Much of the National Park remains closed due to the frequent earthquakes and eruptions of steam, smoke, debris and even some boulders from the crater. But on June 19, park staff re-entered the Jaggar Museum near the summit to remove artifacts and found the building has endured considerable earthquake damage over the past few weeks.
Dramatic changes are taking place at the summit of Kīlauea. Yesterday we had to remove the artifacts from Jaggar Museum, which has endured considerable earthquake damage over the last few weeks. Learn more about our collection: https://t.co/ouVJu1E3jo#KilaueaErupts#Kilauea pic.twitter.com/BtmvCVooPJ
— Hawaii Volcanoes NPS (@Volcanoes_NPS) June 20, 2018
Since the current set of eruptions began in early May, the edge of the crater has crept ever closer to the museum, which can be seen in the comparison at the end of the above video.
The expanding crater has also taken GPS stations down, forcing the USGS observatory to set up new temporary sensors.
The USGS says both subsidence at the crater and the eruption of lava in the lower rift zone remain highly active with no obvious end in sight as all this destructive activity on the Big Island moves into its seventh week.