The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Monday lowered Kilauea volcano’s alert level, noting less vigorous lava fountaining, reduced emissions and no indication of activity migrating outside the summit caldera.
The observatory in its Monday update said that over the past several days, a thick layer of molten lava had accumulated as a lava lake at the base of the crater, partially drowning vents, resulting in subdued fountaining inside Halema‘uma‘u crater. At the height of the current eruption, which commenced at 3:21 p.m. Wednesday, fountains shot lava upward of 200 feet, helping to fill the lake.
Meanwhile, the amount of sulfur dioxide dropped to 12,000 tons per day down from 14,750 on Saturday, the observatory said Monday. The rate reached 85,000 tons per day at the start of the eruption.
“The eruption is currently confined to Halema‘uma‘u crater, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. HVO does not see any indication of activity migrating elsewhere on Kilauea volcano and expects the eruption to remain confined to the summit region,” the update read. “HVO is lowering Kilauea’s volcano alert level to WATCH and its aviation color code to ORANGE, reflecting the less-hazardous nature of the ongoing eruption.”
The alert level “watch” and aviation color code “orange” are used when the volcano is exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption, timeframe uncertain or an eruption is underway that poses limited hazards including no or minor volcanic-ash emissions, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Kilauea’s most recent eruption occurred between December 2020 and May. The last major eruption occurred in 2018, destroying hundreds of homes and displacing thousands of residents. Since 1952, Kilauea has now erupted 35 times.