Latest satellite views of Hawaii’s volcano outburst

The Kilauea volcano outburst on Hawaii’s Big Island has been under constant observation and satellites have been keeping a close eye on its every activity. After the eruption intensified earlier this week, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has recently reported that new fissures have opened up. Fresh lava erupted from existing ‘fissure 8’ that reached a height of almost 200 ft. And poured into the nearby residential areas of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens. ‘Pele’s hairs’ (delicate threads of volcanic glass) were also seen hanging through the air.

New fissures that opened up along the Lower East Rift Zone according to officials at the NASA Earth Observatory. According to NASA reports, ‘fissure 2’ - the most strong opening has been gushing out so vast quantities of lava that it has formed a new ocean-reaching channel of the molten material entering the Pacific from the southeastern coast near Mackenzie State Park in Big Island.

Ever since Kilauea erupted in January 1983, this recent volcanic activity that started a month back has been the most dangerous. First, on 30th April, the crater floor of the volcano collapsed causing excess lava flow, followed by several earthquakes, particularly the ones on the 3rd and 4th May of 5.0 and 6.9 magnitude respectively, preceded by lava inundation.

According to NASA Officials, the OLI - Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite (a collaboration between NASA and U.S. Geological Survey), captured the lava flow on the night of May, 23rd and presented imagery of the entire event by using the received shortwave infrared and green light observations. Accordingly, the NASA Earth Observatory, from OLI data, released a short animation of the same.

Simultaneously, NASA’s Disaster Program, with the help from Suomi NPP satellite (a joint mission by the NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has also been tracking the volcano’s activities very closely. According to a NASA news released published on 25th May, the satellite’s VIIRS (Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite) has been keeping a close watch on the lava’s flow.

The published statement also emphasized the work of the Ozone Mapping Profiling Suite instrument on Suomi NPP and the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) on the NASA's Aura satellite. Both these satellites are continually monitoring the sulphur dioxide gas being released by the volcano. The GUSTIN (Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer), developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which flies aboard an airplane, has been focusing on the changes in Kilauea's topography.