A History of Lava Flows at Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano

May 17, 2018

New fissures opened up on Hawaii’s Big Island in early May 2018, spouting lava that destroyed homes in the Leilani Estates neighborhood. The new activity from the Pu’u ‘O’o Crater of the Kilauea volcano is a reminder that the volcano has been very active in recent decades.

Landsat has been recording the lava flows on the Big Island since the latest eruption began in 1983. The most current image shown is from India’s Resourcesat-2 satellite, which spotted the lava flow in Leilani Estates despite the cloud cover.

In these images, green vegetated land is repeatedly covered with dark lava flows, and infrared imaging shows bright orange spots where there is the most heat.

Eruptions from the Pu’u ‘O’o Crater have a history of burying towns. The 1991 image shows a new lava flow extending toward the east along the coastline. This lava flow buried the entire community of Kalapana in 15–25 meters of lava in 1990. The narrower flow that extends to the northeast occurred between 2014 and 2016, and approached the community of Pahoa.

The image series also shows how the coastline of the island has changed as various lava flows reached the ocean. Landsat and other Earth-observing satellites continue to monitor the rapidly changing landscape of the island.

Sources: Landsat 5 / Resourcesat