Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, one of the most active on Earth, erupted again, forming lava fountains and sending smoke billowing from the crater at its summit.
The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed the eruption Wednesday and raised the volcano alert level to “warning” and the aviation code to red.
The eruption at the Halemaumau crater appeared to be be contained within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and posed no threat to homes in the area for now, USGS officials said.
“All signs indicate that it will stay within the crater,” said Ken Hon, USGS scientist in charge of Hawaii Volcano Observatory. “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.”
Photos and video from the crater showed lava fountains forming and volcanic gases escaping. The release of gases remains the primary hazard in the eruption as water vapor, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide form “vog,” or volcanic smog, downwind of the volcano, the USGS said.
The first vent opened on the floor of the crater around 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, the USGS tweeted. By 4:40 p.m., a vent on the west side of the crater had opened as well. Video captured the moment the lava burst out.
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National park spokesperson Jessica Ferracane told Hawaii News Now the park was experiencing an influx of visitors Wednesday evening and planned for more to come Thursday.
“We’re excited, but we’re also cautious,” she told the TV station. She said the park remained open but urged visitors to be cautious amid the eruption and the risk of COVID-19.
The Kilauea volcano has a long history of eruptions as the most active volcano on Hawaii, but it’s also the islands’ youngest, according to the National Park Service.
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The shield volcano erupted in 2018 in an event that destroyed 700 homes and displaced thousands of residents. Large lava flows continued from May through August, and roughly 320,000 Olympic-size swimming pools of lava spewed out of the volcano, according to the park service. The lava covered streets and landmarks and flowed into neighborhoods. Earthquakes altered the summit area of the volcano, and the Halemaumau crater grew from 280 feet deep to about 1,600 feet.
Before the eruption in 2018, Kilauea had been continuously erupting since 1983 in minor events. Occasionally, lava would spill into the ocean and roads.
The same area that erupted Wednesday had been erupting from December to May. Hon said continuous eruptions could last years.
“We do know that one thing that happens is that the magma keeps coming in to Kilauea at a pretty constant rate, and so it’s either filling the inside of the volcano and repressurizes it, or it’s coming out to the surface.”
Contributing: The Associated Press