Minutes after the USGS and their Hawaii Volcano Observatory raised the alert level for a possible eruption at Kilauea Volcano, it began to erupt. With lava now reaching the surface, they have since upgraded the alert level to RED/WARNING.
USGS webcams at the volcano show several areas of lava shooting up from the floor of a previous lava lake inside the Kilauea caldera inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At approximately 3:20 pm local time / 9:20 pm ET on September 29, 2021, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected glow in Kīlauea summit webcam images indicating that an eruption has commenced within Halemaʻumaʻu crater inside Kilauea’s broader summit caldera. Webcam imagery shows fissures at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater generating lava flows on the surface of the lava lake that was active until May 2021.
At this time, the eruption activity is contained to Kilauea’s summit caldera inside the national park and is of no threat to any structure, residential area, or the community at large. However, every eruption is different and each pose their own risks and local and federal officials at the volcano may offer additional guidance should any gas, ash, or lava threat exist outside of the park territory.
The Volcano Hazards Program Office, through regional groups responsible for volcanoes of concern within their geographic area of concern, is responsible for issuing Aviation Codes and Volcanic Activity Alert Levels. Aviation Codes are green, yellow, orange, or red. When ground-based instrumentation is insufficient to establish that a volcano is at a typical background level of activity, it is simply “unassigned.” While green means typical activity associated with a non-eruptive state, yellow means a volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background levels. When a volcano exhibits heightened or escalating unrest with the increased potential of eruption, it jumps to orange. Finally, when an eruption is imminent with significant emission of volcanic ash expected in the atmosphere or an eruption is underway with significant emission of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, the code becomes red. Volcanic Activity Alert levels are normal, advisory, watch, or warning. As with aviation codes, if data is insufficient, it is simply labeled as “unassigned.” When the volcano is at typical background activity in a non-eruptive state, it is considered normal. If the volcano exhibits signs of elevated unrest above background level, an advisory is issued. If a volcano exhibits heightened or escalating unrest, a watch is issued while a warning is issued when a hazardous eruption is imminent.
The Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) monitors the Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa is considered the world’s largest active volcano. While Kilauea is erupting now, the other two on Hawaii aren’t. However, seismicity remains above background levels at Mauna Loa which is considered the world’s largest active volcano.