A Kīlauea Update

Mar 1, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

It's been a dramatic new year so far for one of Hawai'i Island's most spectacular sights. The Kīlauea Volcano has been continuously erupting for 34 years—but there have been some changes since January. As for current conditions, HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken got an update from scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.


Kīlauea Volcano is erupting in two different places, at the Halema'uma'u Crater at the summit and from the East Rift Zone's Pu'u O'o Vent.  Tina Neal is the Scientist in Charge at the United States Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

"Kīlauea, our most active volcano is really steady as she goes.  At the summit eruption in Halemaumau crater we have the lava lake that continues to rise and fall over the course of days. Up and down 30 to 60 feet as it pressurizes and de-pressurizes with the input and outflow of magma.  Folks right here inside Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park get a great view of its spattering behavior.  

In the Pu'u O'o Vent, lava continues to emit from the east flank of the volcano through a tube system about 7 miles down to the ocean entry.  We've had this marvelous fire hose of lava pouring into the ocean."

Neal says no inhabited areas are threatened, and if Kīlauea's course should change, scientists will have plenty of warning.  And she says while the ocean entry provides spectacular viewing from land and sea, there are hazards:

“The instability of the sea cliff is around the ocean entry.  Even parts of the older sea cliff are unstable and can collapse without warning.  That white plume that's generated where lava reaches the ocean creates this rather noxious mixture of volcanic glass, hydrochloric acid, superheated steam, it is dangerous.  There are hazards to the boats if they get too close, the water that's right around the entry zone is 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  When collapses occur there can be wave action, enough to swamp boats.  "

The other most active volcano on Hawai'i Island is Mauna Loa.   It's not erupting now, but scientists say it will eventually erupt again.