Halema'uma'u celebrates 5 years of eruptions

Explosion created a 115-foot-wide hole; crater now 700-feet-wide

Published  5:30 PM HST Mar 19, 2013

It has been five years since the eruption began within Halema'uma'u Crater on the Big Island.

It has been five years of amazing video and pictures and five years of learning.

The March 19, 2008 eruption created a hole 115-feet-wide.  Since then, the crater is now nearly 700-feet-wide -- the size of 21 Olympic swimming pools.

Matthew Patrick, with the U.S. Geological Survey, says scientists have learned a lot about the connection between eruptions at Kilauea's summit and the east rift zone.

"We now have a window basically into the summit magmatic system so tracking the lava level, for instance, in the summit lake -- those levels correlate very well with lava levels at Pu'u O'o so these two eruptions are connected," said Patrick.

It's an amazing time to be a visitor in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

"They can't directly see the lava level but they can see the upper portion of that vent cavity and real impressive glow from the crater," said Patrick.

At one point, the lava rose to within 72 feet of the vent.  It changes daily and we've been able to watch those changes through USGS cameras.  They allow us to see amazing photographs and videos right from our computer screens.

And then there are the thermal watt cameras.

Halema'uma'u 5-year eruption anniversary
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National Park Service

Park Ranger Dean Gallagher engages visitors with a “Life on the Edge” talk, held daily at the Jaggar Museum Overlook in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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"The benefit of the thermal watt camera is they can see through these volcanic fumes so it kind of gives us continuous observation of the vent," said Patrick.

For Patrick, who got his Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, it's an exciting job and the perfect location.

"Right now we have a really impressive lava lake as we've had for the last few years," said Patrick.  "This lava lake is probably one of the most dynamic lava lakes on earth at this moment."

Click here to see photos of the crater.

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