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Dramatic images of erupting Kilauea volcano in Hawaii

Night photo of lava flowing down a mountainside, into a lava lake.

View larger. | Lava from Kilauea volcano, feeding a lake at Halemaumau Crater. Image via @USGSVolcanoes on Twitter.

Kilauea – in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – is the most active of the 5 volcanoes that form the Hawaiian islands. Its most recent eruption began last night (December 20, 2020) around 9:30 p.m. local time (7:30 UTC on Monday). The eruption sent lava fountains shooting nearly 165 feet (50 meters) into the sky from a fissure on the eastern side of the volcano. Flowing lava replaced the water that was in the basin of Halemaumau Crater – a pit crater within the much-larger Kilauea Caldera , and a new lava lake was formed.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, the scientists logged an earthquake measuring 4.4 magnitude. By 11 p.m., the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory raised the threat level to Warning and switched the aviation color code to Red (advising aircraft to stay away due to a possible ash cloud). Just after midnight, Big Island Civil Defense confirmed no evacuations were needed; the volcanic activity was contained to Halemaumau Crater only. Around the same time, the eruption began diminishing. The ash advisory for aircraft expired around 2 a.m., when scientists announced that the plume from the eruption appeared to be mostly steam, and not filled with other ash and debris. By 6:30 a.m. on Monday, December 21, it appeared the eruption within the crater had stabilized. Lava lake remains. The threat of ash falling continued to diminish. At this writing, two of three fissures remain active.

Here’s the history of the eruption, as traced by @USGSVolcanoes on Twitter. For future updates beyond this Twitter feed, try this page at USGS.

Bottom line: Kilauea volcano’s most recent eruption began on December 20, 2020 around 9:30 p.m. local time (7:30 UTC on December 21). The eruption sent lava fountains shooting nearly 165 feet (50 meters) into the sky and created a new lava lake. By Monday in Hawaii, the eruption was diminishing and appeared stabilized. The lava lake remained.

Deborah Byrd

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