Kilauea Volcano Erupts on Hawaii's Big Island; Alert Level Raised to 'Warning'

The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has erupted after hours of increased activity, according to officials at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Ken Hon, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge, told Hawaii News Now the eruption started about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday and that lava is confined within the crater.

The eruption is taking place within the Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Kīlauea's summit caldera, which is part of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

"Increased earthquake activity and changes in the patterns of ground deformation at Kilauea's summit began occurring as of approximately noon on September 29, 2021, indicating movement of magma in the subsurface," USGS said.

One of the Most Active Volcanos on Earth

David Phillips, the observatory's deputy scientist-in-charge, told CNN that evidence of change at the site had been noticed the night before.

"Just after midnight, we started to get some increase in earthquake activity and seismic swarms," he said.

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano began erupting Wednesday afternoon, spewing lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. USGS Volcanoes

The eruption is currently contained to Halemaʻumaʻu, and there is no current threat to the public.

"At this time, we don't believe anybody or any residents are in danger, but we do want to remind folks the park remains open," Cyrus Johnasen, Hawaii County spokesperson, told KHON2 Wednesday evening.

Webcam footage of the volcano's Halemaumau crater showed lava fountains covering the floor of the crater and billowing clouds of volcanic gas were rising into the air, according to The Associated Press. The same area has been home to a large lava lake at various times throughout the volcano's eruptive past.

Alert Level Raised to Warning

The volcano's alert level has been raised to "warning" and the aviation code changed to red.

Officials said that volcanic gas and heavy vog could become a concern. Officials also warned of rocks and tephra getting blasted from the crater as well as Pele's hair, which are tiny strands of fiberglass floating in the air, reported Hawaii News Now.

Hon said the eruption Wednesday had a "very rapid onset."

"It is completely confined in Halemaumau," he said. "Lava is basically flooding the bottom of Halemaumau at this time but there is no real high fountaining that can be seen outside of the caldera."

Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said the attraction is bracing for a rush of spectators. Traffic into the park was already slow-going on Wednesday evening.

Kilauea Had a Major Eruption in 2018

Kilauea's most recent eruption began last December, reported CNN. The volcano continued to discharge lava for five months.

In 2018, an eruption destroyed more than 700 homes and forced residents to evacuate.

Before the major 2018 eruption, Kilauea had been erupting since 1983 and streams of lava occasionally covered rural farms and homes. During that time, the lava sometimes reached the ocean, causing dramatic interactions with the water, reported AP.