Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Eruption Creates Spectacular Lava Lake

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The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has begun erupting again after almost two years (Credit: USGS)

After erupting almost continuously for over three decades — from 1983 to 2018 — Hawaii's Kilauea volcano finally seemed to lose steam, producing no lava for nearly two years. The slumber ended on the night of December 20, 2020, when the active volcano began spewing out dramatic lava fountains and giant puffs of gas and steam from a fissure in the northwest wall of the Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

The lava from the eruptions evaporated the water lake in the middle of the crater ( Credit: USGS)

As of December 31, 2020, the volcano had ejected over 27 million cubic meters (953 million cubic feet) of molten rock — enough to fill more than 8,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — and replaced the existing water lake with a nearly 600-foot-deep lava lake. Fortunately, the magma is contained inside the volcano's crater and does not pose a risk to people or property as it did in 2018, when the molten rock flowed through a residential neighborhood, destroying over 700 homes.

Residents have, however, been asked to limit outdoor activities in areas with high volcanic smog levels. Commonly known as vog, it is a form of air pollution created when sulfur dioxide and other pollutants emitted from volcanic activity interact chemically with atmospheric moisture, oxygen, dust, and sunlight. While not deadly, it can irritate skin and the tissues and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat, and it can be particularly harmful to individuals with preexisting respiratory conditions.

As of December 23, 2020, the depth of the spectacular lava lake created was over three times greater than the water lake it replaced (Credit: H: Dietterich/USGS)

While Kilauea is now recognized as one of the world's youngest and most active volcanoes, it was initially believed to be an offshoot of a bigger volcano. It was only after researchers discovered a magma plumbing system extending over 37 miles (60 km) inside its crater in 1884 that the volcano was finally accepted as a separate entity.

The lava flow has been contained to the crater and poses no risk to residents (Credit: D. Downs/USGS)

Many locals believe that Kilauea’s eruptions are caused by Pele, a Hawaiian volcano goddess who resides in the mountain. According to popular folklore, the deity — one of six daughters and seven sons born to ancient Earth goddess Haumea and universe creator Kane Milohai — was exiled to Hawaii from Tahiti. Upon arrival, she went on a rampage, creating destructive fire pits and volcanoes. While Pele was killed during an epic battle with her sister Nāmaka on the island of Maui, her spirit lives on inside the Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

Resources: Phys.org, NPR.com, USGS.gov

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323 Comments
  • nuzefujubeva
    nuzefujubevaTuesday, March 9, 2021 at 10:09 am
    its so cool, but so dangerous at the same time but very pretty too
    • jericahernandez
      jericahernandezTuesday, March 2, 2021 at 8:21 am
      this is cool of the lava its like in hawaii and i never been to hawaii before and i real want to go with a friend?. but its cost a lot of money to go their i bet it very hot in hawaii and it seem fun i really really really want to goo!!!
      • firedog4578
        firedog4578Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 9:10 am
        I kinda like lava, it's harmful though, but I like it
        • horses4me
          horses4meFriday, February 26, 2021 at 6:39 am
          So pretty! But it is dangerous. So if you live in Hawaii be careful. So pretty though.
          • yeet2011
            yeet2011Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 11:39 am
            i saw how hot the volcano it is dangres do not get close to it or you colud die stay back
            • midnight12
              midnight12Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 11:09 am
              i was going to go to Hawaii but I didn't go coz of school
              • hehb
                hehbMonday, May 24, 2021 at 1:09 pm
                You Should Go!!!
              • fairytale574
                fairytale574Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 10:09 am
                I live in Hawaii and saw it on televison!
              • valkyrie234
                valkyrie234Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 9:34 am
                That's really cool
                • crzycamila
                  crzycamilaTuesday, February 23, 2021 at 9:14 am
                  it is super scary!
                  • mercury_dust
                    mercury_dustFriday, February 19, 2021 at 2:09 pm
                    so very pretty, but so very deadly...
                    • horses4me
                      horses4meFriday, February 26, 2021 at 6:41 am
                      Yes i agree Very pretty and deadly...