USGS lowers Kilauea alert level, saying no indication lava will flow out of crater

Natalia Deligne, volcanologist at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, provides an update on the Kilauea eruption.
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 3:50 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2023 at 10:58 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kilauea volcano has started erupting again after a nearly month-long pause in activity, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Since the eruption began Thursday evening, USGS has lowered the alert for the Kilauea volcano to “watch/orange” as scientists say there is no indication lava will flow out of the crater. It was previously raised to “warning/red.”

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory also said initial high effusion rates are declining and no infrastructure is threatened.

Officials added there is currently no threat of significant volcanic ash emission outside of the hazardous closed area within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Here’s the latest:

  • The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the eruption began just after 4:30 p.m. Thursday after a fissure opened and scientists detected a glow within Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea’s summit caldera.
  • Multiple minor fountains are active on the summit crater floor. USGS said the largest lava fountain was about 32 feet high on Thursday. Several bursts were up to 164 feet at the beginning of the eruption and they were up to 98 feet high around 7:45 p.m. Overnight, HVO scientists said the fountains lowered in height, measuring at about 10 meters.
  • The activity is confined entirely within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and does not pose a threat to any residential communities, officials added.

Visitors and residents alike are flocking to see the “phenomenal” eruption.

Experts said there’s no telling when the eruption will end.

“This is a resumption of the activity that started about a month ago. We had about 90 minutes of warning that something was about to happen then it erupted around 4:30 p.m. yesterday and has been erupting ever since,” HVO Volcanologist Natalia Deligne told HNN on Friday.

Webcam images showed fissures at the base of the crater producing lava flows on the surface.

“It is pretty incredible,” said Jessica Ferracane of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. “I’ve seen a lot of eruption in my time here at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and I’ve never seen this much lava in the summit crater of Halemaumau.”

Volcanologist said the event is not considered a new eruption but rather a continuation.

“And because it’s only been within three months of the eruption actually stopping on a surface, it’s considered to be a resumption rather than a new eruption of Kilauea,” Geologist Philip Ong said.

The USGS said early Thursday, before the eruption began, there were more earthquakes and changes in ground deformation patterns at the summit. Those were all signs that magma was moving under the surface.

Officials said they will continue to monitor the situation closely.

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Kilauea’s most recent eruption — which started Sept. 29, 2021 — paused on Dec. 9, 2022, bringing the alert level down to yellow. That was just a day before the fiery eruption at Mauna Loa ended.

Officials said Kilauea’s last eruption produced more than 29 billion gallons of lava into the summit’s Halemaumau Crater ― raising the floor by nearly 470 feet.

Planning to visit the site? Click here for more information from HVO on eruption viewing spots.

This story will be updated.