Maui News

Scientists Say it is Unclear How Long the Current Kīlauea Eruption Will Last

October 5, 2021, 7:51 AM HST
* Updated October 5, 7:56 AM
Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory KWcam at Kīlauea’s summit has captured changes within Halemaʻumaʻu crater, at Kīlauea’s summit, due to the eruption that began on Sept. 29, 2021. At approximately 3:21 p.m., HST, new fissures opened at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater. These fissures opened east of the large island near the center of the lava lake that was active within Halemaʻumaʻu crater from December 2020 until May 2021. The first image was taken on Sept. 29, 2021, just before the eruption began; the second image was taken the morning of Oct. 4, 2021, just before 6 a.m. HST and shows the continuing eruption and growing lava lake. Near-real-time images captured by the KWcam are available here. USGS webcam images.

Scientists with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say it is unclear how long the current eruption at Kīlauea will last, but note that it is similar to the most recent one that lasted for five months from December 2020 to May 2021.

According to the HVO,  Kīlauea summit eruptions over the past 200 years have lasted from less than a day to more than a decade.

The latest eruption began on Sept. 29, 2021 within Halemaʻumaʻu crater within Kīlauea’s summit caldera in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

“Vigorous fountaining—with bursts up to 164–197 feet—produced significant amounts of pumice, Peleʻs hair, and fragments of volcanic glass that were deposited in areas downwind along the rim and beyond Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Over the past several days, a thick layer (approximately 89 feet) of molten lava has accumulated as a lava lake at the base of the crater, partially drowning the vents resulting in subdued fountaining,” according to the HVO.

HVO scientists say, “During the same time, the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted has dropped from 85,000 tons per day (one metric ton equals 2,200 pounds) to 12,000 tons a day. Although the amount of gas and volcanic particle production has decreased since the eruption onset, they both remain significant local hazards within the plume. Concentrations of SO2 at the vents remain high (likely over 100 parts per million or ppm) and significantly elevated (5-10 ppm) at stations a few kilometers (a couple of miles) southwest of Halemaʻumaʻu.”  

According to the latest update issued this morning, the HVO does not see any indication of activity migrating elsewhere on Kīlauea volcano  and expects the eruption to remain confined to the summit region.  

HVO is lowering Kīlauea’s volcano alert level to WATCH and its aviation color code to ORANGE, reflecting the less-hazardous nature of the ongoing eruption.  

Scientists say other significant hazards remain around Kīlauea caldera from Halemaʻumaʻu crater wall; ground instability, ground cracking, and rockfalls can be enhanced by earthquakes within the area closed to the public. “This underscores the extremely hazardous nature of Kīlauea caldera rim surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu crater, an area that has been closed to the public since late 2007,” according to the HVO.

This zoomed-in view of the erupting western fissure in Halema‘uma‘u shows lava fountaining activity on the morning of Oct. 4, 2021. The fountains have built a C-shaped spatter rampart around their source, which is now submerged in the rising lava lake. Using a laser rangefinder, HVO field crews measured the spatter rampart to be standing 20 m (66 ft) above the surrounding lava lake surface. USGS photo by M. Zoeller.

E-Mail Newsletters Receive daily or weekly updates via e-mail. Subscribe Now
News Alerts Breaking news alerts on your mobile device. Get the App


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Maui Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments