Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupts and cracks in the crater lava lake

Kilaueas caldera halema'uma'u

The view of lava in Halemaumau, a crater inside Kilauea’s caldera.

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

The youngest and most active volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, Kilauea, has begun to erupt. According to the US Geological Survey, the eruption began around 1 p.m. 18.20 PT (15.20 local time) when a glow was discovered in the Halemaumau crater, located in Kilauea. The eruption is currently confined to the crater within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is monitored by researchers at the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

HVO has updated the alarm level from “clock” to “warning”, signaling that a “dangerous outbreak is imminent, on the way or suspected.”

Halemaumau is a pit crater, caused by the collapse of the surface, it is located within the calauera caldera. The caldera is formed when a volcano erupts, empties its magma chamber on the ground and makes the surface unstable. Eventually all the earth falls inwards and you get a huge depression in the Earth’s surface.

For much of 2019, Halemaumau was filled with water – it had become a lake. But an eruption in December 2020 saw vents feed into lava, boil off the water and create a “lava lake” that was about 750 feet deep. It lasted until around May 2021, when the lake jumped over – but it is active again.

According to the USGS, new cracks have opened up on the surface of the lava lake. The agency states that “high levels of volcanic gas are the primary danger of concern, as this danger may have far-reaching downward effects.”

The USGS and National Parks Service have vivid views of the Pit Crater and Lava Lake if you are eager to see the latest photos. You can also stay up to date with the latest notifications via the USGS Updates page.

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