A so-called “seismic crisis” is over for now at Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, allowing for the National Park Service to re-open a significant portion of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that was closed right before the Thanksgiving holiday. Park rangers have reopened Chain of Craters Road and nearby sites as unrest and seismicity return to normal levels in Kilauea volcano’s upper East Rift Zone (ERZ). As such, areas accessed by Chain of Craters Road, including coastal backcountry sites, Kulanaokuaiki Campground, Keanakākoʻi, and the Devastation Trail and parking area, are now open for the balance of the holiday weekend.
USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists and park staff closely monitored a flurry of earthquakes that shook the ERZ near Puhimau Crater in the park on Tuesday, November 21. The activity, which decreased through the night, prompted park closures that were lifted Wednesday morning. In a statement released by the park, they wrote, “According to USGS, the ‘brief seismic crisis’ in the upper ERZ has subsided, greatly reducing any chance of eruptive activity in that area. There is currently no sign of an imminent eruption in this area, according to USGS.”
Seismic activity has returned to the pattern held since mid-October with the unrest focused in an area south/southwest of the caldera to the Koaʻe fault zone. As a precaution, two trails to the south/southwest of the caldera closed since October remain closed.
According to HVO in an update released today, while Kilauea volcano is not erupting, low levels of seismicity continue in the Southwest Rift Zone, summit, and upper East Rift Zone. “Unrest may continue to wax and wane with changes to the input of magma into the area and eruptive activity could occur in the near future with little or no warning,” cautions HVO. Meanwhile, no unusual activity has been noted along the middle and lower sections of Kilauea’s East Rift Zone where a volcanic eruption occurred in 2018.
Summit seismicity over the past 24 hours continues at low levels with 17 events occurring, and with 13 events in the upper East Rift Zone.
The Uēkahuna summit tiltmeter, located northwest of the caldera, shows a flat to slightly inflationary-deflationary signal over the past 24 hours. The Sand Hill tiltmeter, located southwest of the caldera, shows a similar signal to the one at the Uēkahuna summit tiltmeter. Overall, the summit of Kīlauea remains at a high level of inflation, above the level reached prior to the most recent eruption in September 2023, and the highest level since the 2018 eruption.
An eruption may happen in the short term, but HVO says there are currently no signs of an imminent eruption. “An increase in seismic unrest would be expected prior to any eruptive activity in this region. The onsets of previous summit eruptions have been marked by strong swarms of earthquakes caused by the emplacement of a dike 1-2 hours before eruptions and these have not been detected at this time.”
While seismicity has relaxed at Kilauea, the national park there continues to deal with an ongoing surge of COVID cases on the Big Island that could impact activities there. “High-quality masks must be worn by all individuals inside park buildings when the CDC COVID-19 Hospital Admission Levels are HIGH. Some programs and events may be cancelled,” the park service website shows. Earlier this week, the park announced that due to the high level of COVID hospital admission levels, indoor activities would be canceled for the weekend.