The eruption within Halema’uma’u crater, at Kilauea volcano’s summit within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park continued Thursday morning.
Fountaining at multiple fissure locations on the base and west wall of the crater continued Thursday morning with a lava lake seen growing within Halema’uma’u, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
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.
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.
The activity remained confined to Halema‘uma‘u and within a closed area of the park Thursday morning, continuing to draw 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).
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.