Honolulu – Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, began erupting Wednesday after a three-month hiatus, displaying stunning fountains of mesmerizing, glowing lava that a safe distance away from people and buildings in a national park on the Big Island.
The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a statement that a glow was detected in webcam images from Kilauea Peak early in the morning, indicating an eruption within the caldera’s summit caldera’s Haleamaumau crater.
The observatory said that the images show cracks at the base of the crater, which generated lava flows on the surface of the crater floor.
Before issuing the eruption notice, the observatory said that an increase in earthquake activity and changes in ground deformation patterns at the summit began on Tuesday night, indicating the movement of magma in the Earth’s interior.
“We don’t see any indications of activity in the rift zones at the moment,” said Mike Zoeller, a geologist at the observatory. “There is no reason to expect this to turn into a rift eruption that would threaten any communities here on the island with pyroclastic flows or anything like that.”
All activities were within an enclosed area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
“The lava this morning is all trapped inside … the top of the caldera. So there is plenty of room for it to still produce more without threatening any homes or infrastructure,” park spokeswoman Jessica Viracan said. “This is how we like our eruptions here.”
She said park officials are preparing for the crowds’ arrival because visitors can see the eruption from many vantage points.
“The view of Kilauea was amazing this morning,” she said of the vast lava lake. “It was red, molten lava. There are several areas of very powerful fountains. It’s really really beautiful.”
The lava lake, which covers the floor of the crater above lava left over from previous eruptions, measured about 371 acres (150 hectares) at about 6 a.m., Zwiller said. It is about 4,300 feet (1,300 metres) wide.
News has been leaking out and parking lots are starting to fill up at the park, Virakani said, adding that she expects long lines to enter the park by evening.
Because the park is open 24 hours a day, visitors can beat the crowds by visiting between 9 p.m. and sunrise, Viraquin said.
It reminded visitors to stay away from enclosed areas and to stay on marked paths for safety reasons, including avoiding blast gases.
Two small earthquakes hit Janice Wei, who lives in the nearby town of Volcano. As a volunteer photographer at the park, she was able to see the fountains, which were estimated to be 150 feet (46 m) high, at about 4:30 in the morning.
She said she saw about 15 fountains that were fading by mid-morning.
The volcano alert level was raised to warning status and the aviation color code went red as scientists assessed the eruption and associated risks.
Kilauea volcano, the second largest volcano in Hawaii, erupted from September 2021 until last December. For about two weeks in December, Hawaii’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, was also erupting on the Big Island of Hawaii.
After a brief pause, Kilauea began erupting again in January. This eruption lasted for 61 days, and ended in March.
This eruption looks very similar, Zoeller said: “This eruption follows a very similar book to the last three eruptions we’ve seen here since 2020.”
The 2018 Kilauea volcano eruption destroyed more than 700 homes.
Before the main 2018 eruption, Kilauea had been erupting since 1983, and lava streams sometimes covered farms and homes. During that time, lava occasionally reached the ocean, causing exciting interactions with the water.