Kilauea once again erupting

  • Kilauea  volcano is erupting. At approximately 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, an eruption began within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Kīlauea’s summit caldera, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Fissures at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater are generating lava flows on the surface of the lava lake that was active until May 2021. USGS image/Special to West Hawaii Today

  • Kilauea  volcano is erupting. At approximately 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, an eruption began within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Kīlauea’s summit caldera, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Fissures at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater are generating lava flows on the surface of the lava lake that was active until May 2021. USGS image/Special to West Hawaii Today

  • Aerial visual and thermal imagery collected on June 8, 2021. The scale of the base thermal map ranges from blue to red, with blue colors indicative of cooler temperatures and red colors indicative of warmer temperatures. (USGS map by M. Patrick/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Kilauea  volcano is erupting. At approximately 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, an eruption began within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Kīlauea’s summit caldera, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Fissures at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater are generating lava flows on the surface of the lava lake that was active until May 2021. USGS image/Special to West Hawaii Today

  • The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has detected glow in Kilauea summit webcams, indicating an eruption has commenced within Halema‘uma‘u crater. This webcam image shows fissures, which opened on the surface of the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u crater. (USGS image/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • At approximately 3:20 p.m. HST on September 29, 2021, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected glow in Kīlauea summit webcams indicating an eruption has commenced within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. This thermal webcam image from 3:38 p.m. shows fissures, which opened on the surface of the recently active lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. (HVO/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • This thermal webcam image from 3:38 p.m. shows fissures, which opened on the surface of the recently active lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u crater. (HVO/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Kilauea volcano is again erupting, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said Wednesday.

At approximately 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, the observatory detected a glow in Kilauea summit webcam images indicating that an eruption had commenced within Halema‘uma‘u crater in Kilauea’s summit caldera. Increased earthquake activity and ground swelling had been detected prior to the eruption.

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Webcam imagery Wednesday night showed fissures at the base of Halema‘uma‘u crater generating lava flows on the surface of the lava lake that had last been active in May, which is when the last eruption that commenced Dec. 20 ended. Kilauea’s volcano alert level was raised from watch to warning and its aviation color code from orange to red.

As of press-time Wednesday, the activity remained confined to Halema‘uma‘u and within a closed area of the park drawing a large number of curious onlookers.

“Viewing lava at the summit of Kilauea is awe-inspiring. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we ask the public to recreate responsibly, maintain social distance and to wear a mask,” Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh said Wednesday night. “We want to keep the park open for all to experience this new phase of volcanic activity, but we can only do so if visitors follow guidelines that keep everyone safe.”

Officials cautioned that high levels of volcanic gas were the primary hazard of concern, noting that vog, or “volcanic smog” had already been observed downwind of Kilauea. Fanned by southerly winds, vog typically moves across the Ka‘u District, hitting first areas like Pahala, Naalehu and Ocean View, before getting caught up in sea breezes that bring it toward West Hawaii and onshore.

“Large amounts of volcanic gas — primarily water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) — are continuously released during eruptions of Kilauea Volcano. As SO2 is released from the summit, it will react in the atmosphere to create the visible haze known as vog (volcanic smog) that has been observed downwind of Kilauea,” the observatory said. “Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors, damages agricultural crops and other plants, and affects livestock.”

Additional hazards include Pele’s hair and other lightweight volcanic glass fragments from the lava fountains that could fall downwind of the fissure vents and dust the ground within a few hundred yards of the vent(s).

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All areas of the park that were open before the new eruption began remained open Wednesday evening, the National Park Service said. Vantage points for viewing the new eruption include Uekahuna (former Jaggar Museum parking), Wahinekapu (Steaming Bluff), Kilauea Overlook, Keanakako‘i, Kupina‘i Pali (Waldron Ledge) and other overlooks along Crater Rim Trail.

Kilauea had a major eruption in 2018 that destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of residents. Since 1952, Kilauea has now erupted 35 times.

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