Kilauea is Erupting

Here’s the latest update: looks like there’s a new lava lake on the way. Glad the lake of water didn’t cause explosions.

Kīlauea Volcano is erupting. At 9:30 p.m. HST on December 20, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected glow within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano, indicating that an eruption had commenced within Kīlauea’s summit caldera. Due to the presence of the water lake at the summit of Kīlauea and the potential for steam-driven explosions and related hazards, HVO elevated Kīlauea’s volcano alert level to WARNING and its aviation color code to RED on December 20 as the progression of events was uncertain.

The water lake at the summit of Kīlauea has boiled away and an effusive eruption has commenced, with three vents in the wall of Halemaʻumaʻu crater generating lava flows that are contributing to a growing lava lake at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater. The eruption is currently confined to Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

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

Alert levels and aviation color codes are explained here:

HVO continues to monitor the volcano closely and will report any significant changes.

Stay informed about Kīlauea by following volcano updates and tracking current monitoring data on the HVO web page ( or by signing up to receive updates by email at this site:

HVO is in constant communication with Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park as this situation evolves. The eruption is currently taking place entirely within the park.

HVO is in constant communication with the County of Hawai’i Civil Defense Agency.

Recent Observations:

An earthquake swarm beneath Kīlauea summit began around 8:30 p.m. HST on the evening of December 20, accompanied by ground deformation detected by tiltmeters. A bright glow and vigorous steam plume, generated by the boiling water lake in Halemaʻumaʻu, was subsequently observed on HVO webcams beginning approximately 9:30 p.m. HST. HVO scientists responded immediately and visually confirmed from the field that lava was visible within Halemaʻumaʻu. The steam plume dissipated shortly thereafter. Activity over the past ten hours has been characterized by three fissure vents on the north and northwest walls of Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Fountaining lava at these vents is estimated to be up to 25 m (82 ft) high; the vents are feeding lava flows into the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater, which is being filled with a growing lava lake.

The lava lake has been rising approximately several meters (yards) an hour since the eruption began. The current lava lake exhibits a circulating perimeter, but stagnant center.

The event has been accompanied by only moderate amounts of deformation, indicating deflation of a magma reservoir under Halema’uma’u. Rates of tilting have decreased slightly since the beginning of the eruption.

Increased rates of seismicity in the summit region continue. Some of these earthquakes may be felt. A magnitude-4.4 earthquake located beneath Kīlauea Volcano’s south flank occurred on Sunday, December 20, at 10:36 p.m. HST.

Visitors to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park should note that under southerly (non-trade) wind conditions, rockfalls and explosions can result in a dusting of powdery to gritty ash composed of volcanic glass and rock fragments. These ashfalls represent a minor hazard, but visitors should be aware that dustings of ash at areas around the Kīlauea summit are possible.

For more information on gas hazards at the summit of Kīlauea, please see:

For more information about volcanic ash hazards and precautions at Kīlauea, please see:

For discussion of Kīlauea hazards, please see:

For all updates:

On a cultural note, I just found this 2012 video via Twittef:

Featured image: Volcano Hazards Program Office, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Kilauea, December 20th, 2020. The most recent of these reports, along with older ones, are here.

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