One of the world's most active volcanoes erupts again on island of Hawaii
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is blowing off steam again and creating quite the scene on the island of Hawaii.
The volcano erupted Wednesday in the Halemaumau crater at the summit within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, according to officials with the U.S. Geological Survey. The latest eruption sent lava flowing and shot clouds of billowing volcanic gas high into the air. The good news is that the eruption does not appear to pose a threat to any populated areas.
"All signs indicate that it will stay within the crater," Ken Hon, the USGS scientist in charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told The Associated Press. "We’re not seeing any indications that lava is moving into the lower part of the east rift zone where people live. Currently, all the activity is within the park.”
As a matter of precaution, the volcano's alert level has been raised to "warning” and the aviation code changed to red.
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Lava fountains appear to be forming on the floor of Kilauea's crater. The same area has been home to a large lava lake at various times throughout the volcano's past eruptions.
Sensors early Wednesday had detected increasing earthquake activity and ground swelling, both indicators of an impending eruption.
Kilauea's last major eruption in 2018 had a substantial impact on the Hawaiian people. It destroyed 700 homes and forced the displacement of thousands of people. Not all of the impact was negative, however. The resulting lava flow also created about a mile of new coastline on the Big Island.
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Over a period of four months that year, Kilauea discharged enough lava to fill 320,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, enough to bury about half of Manhattan in up to 80 feet of molten rock.
After the 2018 eruption, the summit lava lake stopped erupting and for the first time in recorded history began to fill with water. That sparked fears that a potentially explosive interaction between lava and groundwater could occur.
The same area of the volcano that erupted Wednesday also erupted from last December until May.
Hon, the USGS scientist at the observatory, says Kilauea could keep erupting for years as the volcano fills up with magma.
“We do know that one thing that happens is that the magma keeps coming into Kilauea at a pretty constant rate," Hon said, "and so it’s either filling the inside of the volcano and repressurizing it or it’s coming out to the surface.”
Because this eruption isn't proving to be a threat to local communities at the moment, it gives locals and tourists a chance to see Kilauea's spectacular fury in action. Officials expect tens of thousands of people to head to the park to get a closer look at one of nature's most impressive acts.
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Witnesses who were at the Volcano House hotel and restaurant about 2 miles from the crater reported seeing the eruption. The Volcano House is inside the national park but far enough away that there is no public safety threat. The park remains open, but the area where the eruption is occurring is closed to all visitors, and far away from any open hiking or driving trails.
A spokesperson for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Jessica Ferracane, told The Associated Press that people heading to the park need to be careful and remember that the pandemic remains a major concern, so social distancing should be observed.
“This eruption is going to draw many people to the park, we're already seeing people come into the park, drive in after dark,” she said. “If you're sick, please don't come. Come visit another day. Enjoy the views from the webcam. We really want to not have these current eruption conditions increase the spread of COVID.”