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Kilauea’s Kahaualea 2 lava flow tapped out by new activity

Updated: 
July 4, 2014 - 6:24am

The Kahaualea 2 lava flow officially met its demise this week.

Geologists with Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the slow-moving flow was tapped out as of Monday, its supply of magma being robbed by new activity at Puu Oo.

It leaves behind a 5.5-mile path of hardened lava, some of it through the Wao Kele O Puna Forest Reserve.

For more than a year, it edged slowly in the direction of residential areas several miles downslope, though geologists note it posed no immediate threat to residents.

“It was still very far away and moving very slowly and very erratically,” said Matthew Patrick, HVO geologist.

But Puu Oo is hardly quiet, and the June 27 lava breakout at the cone is sending lava, slowly once again, in the same north/northeast direction.

The breakout started following a burst shortly before 7 a.m., according to HVO. The northeast flank began to rise slightly as magma pushed its way up from below.

The magma was released through new fissures, creating an impressive stream of lava that reached about 1 mile that day.

Patrick said this released the pressure from underneath, and diverted magma from the Kahaualea 2 flow.

“It basically punched a hole in the magmatic system,” he said.

Patrick said a portion of that flow’s lava tube was exposed near the crater. Seen Monday by geologists, the tube was empty, he said.

The rate of the new flow dropped following the June 27 event, but it continues to be fed, producing short flows that are building a broad lava shield on Puu Oo’s flank.

“In the long term, this could eventually start setting up a new tube system,” Patrick said.

“We just have to watch to see which direction the flow migrates out.”

Patrick said the latest event is nothing unusual. Numerous interruptions have occurred throughout the lifespan of the 30-plus years of nearly continual activity on Kilauea’s east rift zone.

In 2011, similar events at Puu Oo occurred, though with more vigor and force.

Overall, recent activity at the crater is lower than normal, Patrick said.

“The activity we see on the surface is a little more subdued compared to typical,” he said.

“We don’t know if that is a short-term change or whether it’s part of a long-term change.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.