Sep 222014

A visual guide to the lava flow in Puna.

Mark Kimura

Mark Kimura at the Pahoa Village Museum on Sept. 20, 2014.

Mark Kimura, a researcher at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo who specializes in economic geography, is generating mapping data of the lava flow in Puna, Hawai‘i Island.

Kimura is an affiliate faculty member of the UH Hilo geography and environmental sciences department, and when the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory started discussing worst case scenarios of the current lava flow, he saw a need for easily accessible information about demographics and businesses in Puna that would help the community make important decisions. He started posting his maps and analysis on a Facebook page called Lower Puna Infographics by Dr. Mark Kimura.

“The more I read comments (on my Facebook page), the more firmly I’m convinced that education is crucial across the island both geographically and demographically,” says Kimura. “I try my best to make my graphics both accurate and concise at the same time, but there are limits for that effort. The existence of UH Hilo is also crucial in a situation like this. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my access to UH Hilo’s resources, mainly software licenses, and connections with other scientists and staff.”

For his analysis, Kimura is using Geographic Information Systems or GIS, which are computer systems designed to capture and analyze spatial or geographical data. For many of the images, he is using a GIS tool called Esri Community Analyst, which he learned as a former postdoc and member of the UH Hilo Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Lab. Esri is used by organizations and communities around the world that are using GIS to increase spatial literacy, protect the environment, assist with disaster response, and support humanitarian affairs. With this computerized tool, Kimura creates the maps of Puna and pulls up the statistics.

Kimura says the making of the maps is helping him to grow as a scientist and as a person.

“To be honest, I’m a bit scared of possible impacts my (Facebook page) may have on people,” he says. “The responsibilities that come with the information I share feel too much at times. But my salary for the past three years has been paid by tax payers, so if I can help people using my skills and resources, I have to do this. After reading people’s comments by people who live in the affected area and those who have their loved ones living in lower Puna, I can’t stop.”

Kimura wishes to add this disclaimer to the following maps: The information did not go through the peer review process, so he does not claim accuracy of the graphs. He notes that he does his best in the hopes that this will provide people in lower Puna and the rest of the world with some insights.

This is an active report presented in multiple pages — maps are added to the top of the list as Kimura creates them. In the caption of each image is the date he posted the graphic to his Facebook page. Images are reprinted with permission. 

NOTE: Be sure you are viewing the infographics through the main url of this post (otherwise graphs and images may be distorted in size).

For a quick look at where the current flow front is located, Kimura keeps a Google interactive map updated with the latest update from Civil Defense (click on yellow pin to get the date of the update).

Feb. 22, 2015. The new surface breakout has advanced a little for the past few days (sluggish now, 20 yards since yesterday), after 3-4 weeks of no or little apparent movement.

Feb. 22, 2015. The new surface breakout has advanced a little for the past few days (sluggish now, 20 yards since yesterday), after 3-4 weeks of no or little apparent movement.


95 Flow progress

Jan. 29, 2015. Here is a mini-update. The flow front has not moved much for the past 10 days or so.



94 Flow progress

Jan. 17, 2015. Until this morning, the closest the flow front had ever gotten to State Highway 130 was about 0.46 miles around Halloween last year (then it stopped). As of this morning, the new breakout is approximately 0.41 miles from the highway.


93 Flow progress

Jan. 16, 2014. New active breakout.


92 Flow progress

January 7, 2015. Updated progress chart with the new active breakout. (Caution: the breakout is not moving directly toward the Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection, but this graphic shows the straight distance between that intersection and the breakout because it’s not known where it’s going–as a result, it looks slower than the actual rate.)


91 Flow progress

Dec. 30, 2014. Lava flow progress chart based on the update by Civil Defense this morning. It’s been advancing very, very slowly.


Above video is on the result of the “June 27th Lava Flow Community Needs Survey” by Hawaii Island United Way and Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency. It is recommend to watch the video in “HD” mode. You also can download the PDF and simply view the results at


90 Flow progress

Dec. 23, 2014. Summary of flow so far.


89 Flow progress

Dec. 21, 2014. As of this morning.


88 Flow progress

Dec. 19, 2014. As of 6:30 a.m. this morning, “the front remains approximately .8 miles upslope of the Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection” (Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency).