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Hawaiian Lava Lake Hits New Record High

Halema'uma'u crater
The lava lake in Halemau'ma'u crater at the summit of Kilauea volcano on Jan. 10, 2013. (Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey)

The orange glow atop Hawaii's Mount Kilauea was a little stronger yesterday (Jan. 15) than it has been in recent weeks. The volcano's lava lake lapped over the inner ledge of its vent, reaching a new high and bring molten rock closer than ever to the floor of Halema'uma'u crater.

The level was about 80 feet (25 meters) below the crater floor, the highest level reached since the summit vent blasted open in March 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. The lava lake last surged on Oct. 23, 2012, when the high mark was measured at 100 feet (31 m) below the crater floor.

Since fresh lava appeared atop Kilauea in 2008, the lake level has varied from near the crater to out of sight, more than 650 feet (200 m) beneath the crater floor. The lake sits in a vent, which is actually a pipe-like crater within the smaller crater called Halema'uma'u. And Halema'uma'u is also a crater within a crater — the giant Kilauea caldera, the bowl left behind when the volcano blew its top about 1500 A.D.

The USGS also reports that activity is up at Pu'u 'O'o crater, 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the summit in the volcano's East Rift Zone. The crater was awash with lava flows in recent days, and lava overflowed from its northeast lava lake and north spatter cone, the USGS said in a statement. At the coast, oozing flows continues to slowly drop into the ocean.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the eruption at Kilauea's East Rift Zone. The volcano's longest continuous rift zone eruption since the 15th century, the massive upwelling has created more than 500 acres of new land.

Reach Becky Oskin at boskin@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.