At approximately 14:44 UTC (04:44 HST) on June 7, 2023, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected a glow in Kīlauea summit webcam images indicating that an eruption has commenced within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Kīlauea’s summit caldera, within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
As a result, HVO raised Kīlauea’s volcano Alert Level from Watch to Warning and its Aviation Color Code from Orange to Red as this eruption and associated hazards are evaluated.
The opening phases of eruptions are dynamic, HVO said.
Webcam imagery shows fissures at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater generating lava flows on the surface of the crater floor. The activity is confined to Halemaʻumaʻu and the hazards will be reassessed as the eruption progresses.
HVO will continue to monitor this activity closely and report any significant changes in future notices.
Kīlauea summit eruptive activity over the past several years has occurred at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater, within the closed area of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
During Kīlauea summit eruptions, the high level of volcanic gas—primarily water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2)—being emitted is the primary hazard of concern, as this hazard can have far-reaching effects downwind. Passive volcanic degassing can occur from within Halemaʻumaʻu crater even during periods of no eruptive activity.
As SO2 is released from the summit, it reacts in the atmosphere to create the visible haze known as vog (volcanic smog) that has been observed downwind of Kīlauea. Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors, damages agricultural crops and other plants, and affects livestock.
Other significant hazards also remain around Kīlauea caldera from Halemaʻumaʻu crater wall instability, ground cracking, and rockfalls that can be enhanced by earthquakes within the area closed to the public. This underscores the extremely hazardous nature of the rim surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu crater, an area that has been closed to the public since early 2008.
Kilauea volcano, which overlaps the east flank of the massive Mauna Loa shield volcano, has been Hawaii’s most active volcano during historical time.
Eruptions of Kilauea are prominent in Polynesian legends; written documentation extending back to only 1820 records frequent summit and flank lava flow eruptions that were interspersed with periods of long-term lava lake activity that lasted until 1924 at Halemaumau crater, within the summit caldera.
The 3 x 5 km (1.9 x 3.1 miles) caldera was formed in several stages about 1500 years ago and during the 18th century; eruptions have also originated from the lengthy East and SW rift zones, which extend to the sea on both sides of the volcano.
About 90% of the surface of the basaltic shield volcano is formed of lava flows less than about 1 100 years old; 70% of the volcano’s surface is younger than 600 years.
A long-term eruption from the East rift zone that began in 1983 has produced lava flows covering more than 100 km2 (37 mi2), destroying nearly 200 houses and adding a new coastline to the island.2
1 HVO/USGS Volcanic Activity Notice – Volcano: Kilauea (VNUM #332010) – June 7, 2023 at 14:47 UTC
2 Kilauea – Geological summary – GVP
Featured image credit: USGS/HVO
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