Hydrovolcanic Explosions at the Lava Ocean Entry of the 2018 Kilauea Eruption Recorded by Ocean-Bottom Seismometers

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From the beginning of May 2018, the Kilauea Volcano on the island of Hawaii experienced its largest eruption in 200 yr followed by a period of unrest for months. Because hot molten lava entered the ocean from the ocean-entry point near the lower East Rift Zone, the lava–water interaction led to explosions. Some explosions were near the water surface and ejected fragments of lava, also known as lava bombs. In the early morning on 16 July 2018, one of those lava bombs, which was almost the size of a basketball, hit a sightseeing boat and injured 23 people. In this study, we analyzed the hydrophone data recorded from July to mid-September by ocean-bottom seismometers (OBSs) deployed offshore near the ocean entry point to identify and locate the hydroacoustic signals of the lava–water explosions. Acoustic signals of hydrovolcanic explosions are characterized by a short duration (less than a few seconds) and a broad frequency range (at least up to 100 Hz). To automate event detection, a short-term average versus long-term average method was applied to the complete dataset. Approximately 4300 events were detected and located near the coastline and further used to prepare a catalog. The distribution of the lava–water explosions is consistent with the pattern of the offshore lava delta formed during the 2018 eruption. Identifying such hydroacoustic signals recorded by OBSs may provide new avenues of research using various seismoacoustic events associated with volcanic eruptions.

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Seismological Research Letters