Hawaii Volcano Kilauea: New USGS Maps Capture Lava Flows and Spread

More maps, more problems. 

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has published a new set of maps to observe the destruction caused by Hawaii’s Volcano Kilauea. The government agency continues to publish maps at a fast cadence as they quickly become obsolete due to Kilauea’s lava flows and their fast-moving, erratic behavior.

On Wednesday, the USGS published its latest update stating that although lava flow has slowed to less than 50 yards per hour near the overactive Fissure 8, the fissure continues to maintain eruptive fountains reaching 250 feet. USGS also issued a warning that that this fissure’s high “fountaining” is launching volcanic glass.

Thermal map showing the fissure system and lava flows as of 12:15 pm on May 30.


Temperatures in this thermal-image map are displayed as gray-scale values, with the brightest pixels indicating the hottest areas. It shows how lava has now crossed Highway 132 and a stretch of roads across Hawaii’s Big Island, making it difficult for residents to evacuate if they haven’t done so already. By late afternoon on Thursday, lava flow from Fissure 18 was less than a mile from Highway 137 before it began branching from the south side of the crack. Fissures 22, 6, and 13 were also offering sporadic bursts of activity expanding the lava’s reach.

The lava isn’t the only carnage that the volcano has caused. Since Kilauea first erupted on May 3, it has spewed giant rocks the size of refrigerators, opened several dangerous fissures, literally screamed, and then farted copious amounts of toxic sulfur dioxide in the air, creating a rotten-egg smell that could, under some conditions, contribute to acid rain.

Map of lava flows as of 3:00 p.m. on May 30.


USGS is frequently publishing new maps due to the erratic nature of Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone eruption. The agency made a point to note that the map details shown above are accurate as of date/time noted, but “could have changed rapidly since that time.” The fast-moving lava keeps pivoting thanks to changing vent locations, varying rates of lava effusions, and over 20 fissures starting and stopping. The USGS maps highlight the latest lava flows but it’s still uncertain which areas will be affected next.

The latest maps from USGS continue to offer surprises, much like when the Kilauea Volcano lava first became visible from space. After four weeks of unprecedented eruptions, the extent of these lava flows continues to displace hundreds of people on the Big Island.