Kilauea Volcano Erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island

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Kilauea, the most active volcano in Hawaii, began erupting early on Monday morning. Kilauea, in the southeast part of the Big Island, erupted three times last year.

Because the eruption was happening near the summit, there did not appear to be any immediate danger to residents.

The eruption began at 12:30 a.m. local time. Magma was rising from beneath the surface and “fountaining” up through cracks, the United States Geological Survey said.

Rather than the hundreds of feet you might expect in a classic, major volcanic eruption, Michael Poland, a geophysicist with the U.S.G.S., said the lava at Kilauea was rising only “tens of feet” on Monday.

In 2023, Kilauea erupted in January, June and September. A major eruption in 2018 destroyed 700 homes.

“From 1983 to 2018, all of the activity came from two vents,” Mr. Poland said. “Since 2018, it has gone away from a period of steady eruptions. Now it has discrete, usually shortish eruptions happening in several different places. Now we’re getting eruptions happening in places we haven’t seen in 50 years.”

Recent eruptions have typically lasted six to eight hours.

“Unlike 2018, when lava was coming out in people’s backyards, these are in the national park,” Mr. Poland said, referring to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The volcano alert level was raised Monday to a warning from a watch, the normal move when an eruption starts.

Scientists had been watching for an eruption after about 250 earthquakes were recorded beneath Kilauea’s summit over an eight-hour period before the eruption.

Earthquakes are sometimes a precursor to eruption. The strongest quake was a magnitude-4.1 temblor at 9:12 p.m., about three hours before the eruption.

The U.S.G.S. said that during Kilauea’s eruptions, volcanic gas, including sulfur dioxide, is released. That gas reacts in the atmosphere to create volcanic smog, or vog.

“Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors, damages agricultural crops and other plants, and affects livestock,” the agency said.

“It’s more of an irritant,” Mr. Poland said. “If people have sensitive breathing or respiratory issues, they may find it more difficult to breathe.”

Mr. Poland said after the initial eruptions, the activity was starting to wane as of 11 a.m. Eastern time. “We wouldn’t expect this one to be a terribly long-term eruption,” he said.



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