After a brief pause in activity, scientists observing the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii now say activity has picked up at the volcano with resumed unrest and an increase in inflation and seismicity around the active volcano. Due to the renewed activity which could soon lead to an eruption, the National Park Service has expanded the area closed to visitors within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
“Safety is always our top priority, and the potential hazards in this region are significant and could include elevated volcanic gases, dangerous lava activity, and damaging earthquakes with very little notice. After any potential eruptive activity occurs, park managers will re-evaluate high hazard areas and access,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is unique among national parks because of the two active volcanoes within its boundaries. Last year, the park closed the summit of Mauna Loa weeks ahead of its historic summit eruption in November. As a result, no one had to be evacuated and no search and rescue missions were necessary. The park also provides an opportunity to view volcanic activity safely, as was the case with recent eruption episodes at Kilauea earlier this year.
Due to episodic unrest in the area south-southwest of Kilauea caldera, the Park Service closed the Mauna Iki Trail as is the Kaʻū Desert/Footprints Trail past the Footprints exhibit to the Mauna Iki Trail intersection. The Footprints exhibit remains open and accessible from Highway 11. Kulanaokuaiki Campground is open and Hilina Pali Road is open but is closed to vehicles past the campground to the Hilina Pali Lookout due to elevated fire risk. These closed areas are in addition to areas closed just weeks ago when seismic activity surged at the volcano.
In today’s update from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the unrest to the south-southwest of Kilauea’s summit has increased over the past 24 hours in association with an intrusive event that began in early October. “Unrest may continue to wax and wane with changes to the input of magma into the area,” the HVO wrote, adding that “the summit of Kīlauea remains at a high level of inflation and eruptive activity is possible in the coming weeks or months.” Previously, HVO and USGS said an eruption here could occur with little advance notice of only about an hour or two.
Renewed seismicity beneath the south end of Kilauea caldera extending to the southwest along the trend of December 1974 vents began on October 16. The renewed activity peaked on October 17 and decreased through much of yesterday, October 20. Around 7 pm last night local time, seismic unrest began to increase again to a level close to that seen on the 17th. According to USGS, over the past 24 hours, approximately 96 earthquakes were recorded in Kilauea’s summit region, up from only 4 during the previous day. Most of the earthquakes related to this unrest are at depths of around 0.6–2 miles below the surface.