HONOLULU – One of the most active volcanoes on Earth erupts on the Big Island of Hawaii.
US Geological Survey officials confirmed on Wednesday that an eruption had started in the Halemaumau crater of the Kilauea volcano at the top of the volcano.
Webcam images of the crater showed lava fountains covering the floor of the crater and clouds of volcanic gas rose into the air. The same area has hosted a large lava lake on several occasions during the volcano’s eruptive past.
The eruption is not in an area with houses and is completely contained within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
“All signs point to it remaining in the crater,” said Ken Hon, the USGS scientist in charge of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory. “We don’t see any indication that lava is moving in the lower part of the East Rift Zone where people live. Currently all activity is in the park.
The volcano’s alert level was raised to “warning” and the aviation code turned red.
Earlier Wednesday, officials said an increase in seismic activity and swelling of the ground had been detected, and at that time, alert levels had been raised accordingly.
Kilauea experienced a major eruption in 2018 that destroyed more than 700 homes and displaced thousands of residents. Before this eruption, the volcano had been erupting slowly for decades, but especially not in densely populated residential areas.
Before the big eruption of 2018, Kilauea had been erupting since 1983, and lava flows occasionally covered farms and rural homes. During this time, lava occasionally reached the ocean, causing dramatic interactions with the water.
In four months in 2018, Kilauea spat out enough lava to fill 320,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, burying an area more than half the size of Manhattan in up to 80 feet (24 meters) of now hardened lava. Molten rock has reduced monuments, streets and neighborhoods to a vast field of blackened boulders and volcanic shards.
After the 2018 eruption, the summit lava lake stopped erupting and, for the first time in history, began to fill with water, raising concerns about the possibility of a explosive interaction between lava and groundwater.
The same area of the volcano that started erupting on Wednesday also erupted in December and lasted until May.
Hon said these types of eruptions could occur for years as the volcano fills up.
“We know that one thing that is happening is that the magma continues to enter Kilauea at a fairly constant rate and therefore either fills the interior of the volcano and repressurizes it or comes out to the surface.”
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane told The Associated Press she had not yet arrived at the park, but her colleagues reported seeing lava splashes and a glow in the summit crater.
“He saw it from Volcano House, which is at least 2 miles from the eruption site, so I guess… we’ll be able to see a pretty glow, and who knows what else,” he said. she declared.
The Volcano House is a hotel and restaurant located in the national park next to the visitor center. The park is open to visitors.
Ferracane said the erupting area is not close to where people can hike or drive. The trails downwind of the eruption have been closed for years.
“The park is open and there is no road closure at the moment,” Ferracane said.
Ferracane added that authorities are expected to pour tens of thousands of visitors into the park and that people need to be very careful both in terms of natural hazards and COVID-19.
“This eruption will attract a lot of people to the park, we are already seeing people entering the park, driving after dark tonight,” Ferracane said. “Really need people to remember that we are in the middle of a pandemic and they need to stay safe and protect us as well. “
She said people must maintain a distance of six feet and wear masks.
“If you are sick, please don’t come. Come visit another day. Enjoy the view from the webcam, ”she said. “We really want these current rash conditions not to increase the spread of COVID. “