2020-2021 Summit Eruption

Maps detailing the topography of Halemaʻumaʻu crater before and during the 2020 eruption, in which it became significantly more shallow
USGS diagram illustrating the decrease in depth of Halemaʻumaʻu crater due to the 2020 summit eruption (Courtesy USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory). Click to view full-size.
Shortly after approximately 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 20, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected a glow within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea volcano. The water lake that had existed at the summit of Kīlauea since 2019 soon boiled away as an effusive eruption commenced. Three initial vents in the wall of Halemaʻumaʻu crater cascaded lava flows into a growing lava lake on the crater floor.

After 5 months of activity, a decrease in effusion indicated that the eruption in Halema‘uma‘u at the summit of Kīlauea was going to pause. HVO field crews did not observe any signs of lava lake activity on May 25, and reported no signs of active surface lava.
The next day Kīlauea was no longer erupting. The crusted-over lava lake was last measured at 229 m (751 ft) deep and was stagnant across its surface.

Below are select photographs and videos from the eruption, as it progresses.

For current monitoring info about Kīlauea, see: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/status.html
 
 

Transition From a Water Lake to Lava Lake in Halemaʻumaʻu

Green lake of water at the bottom of a volcanic crater Green lake of water at the bottom of a volcanic crater

Left image
Water Lake on December 20, 2020
Credit: USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Right image
Lava Lake on December 24, 2020
Credit: USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

On December 20, as lava cascaded into Halemaʻumaʻu crater, it instantly vaporized the growing lake of water that had been developing in the crater since 2018. By December 24, it was replaced by a lava lake more than 500 feet deep. (Photos by USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

Note: these photos were taken by scientists studying the eruption and this view is not available from publicly accessible areas

 
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The western vent feeding the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu became partially submerged in the first days of January. The result is a rolling upwelling of lava called a "dome fountain." The height of the dome fountain was estimated to be about 16 feet (5 m) with an estimated width of 33 feet (10 m). Note: this telephoto image was taken by scientists studying the eruption and this view is not available from publicly accessible areas. Video by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Glowing plume from an erupting volcanic crater
Halemaʻumaʻu at approximately 10:30 p.m. on December 20, shortly after the eruption began. (NPS Photo/J. Wei)
 
Lava cascading down into a crater at night, viewed from above
Lava cascading into the base of Halemaʻumaʻu shortly after the eruption began, December 20.  Note: this photo was taken by scientists studying the eruption and this view is not available from publicly accessible areas. (USGS Photo)
 
Aerial view of a volcanic crater with three streams of lava and yellow sulfur deposits
Note: this aerial photo was taken by scientists studying the eruption and this view is not available from publicly accessible areas (USGS Photo/M. Patrick)
As of 11:20 a.m. on December 21, two of the three original vents were still active, feeding the lava lake. The northern vent (right side) would soon be submerged.
 
Large white plume emanating from volcanic caldera with ferns on the edge of a cliff in the foreground
The view from Crater Rim Trail behind Volcano House, December 21 at approximately 2:30 p.m. (NPS Photo/A. LaValle)
 
Silhouette of a tree in front of an orange glowing volcanic crater sending out a plume
View from Crater Rim Trail approaching Kīlauea Overlook, December 22, 2020 (NPS Photo/A. LaValle)
 
Glowing plume from an erupting volcanic caldera with tree silhouettes in the foreground
Sunrise from Kupinaʻi Pali (Waldron Ledge) on December 22 (NPS Photo/A. LaValle)
 
Glowing lava lake in a volcanic crater at night
Glowing lake in Halemaʻumaʻu January 2, 2021-- Note: this photo was taken by scientists studying the eruption and this view is not available from publicly accessible areas (USGS Photo/H. Dietterich)
 
Lake of molten lava in a volcanic crater under blue sky with white clouds and a rainbow
Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake on the final day of 2020-- Note: this photo was taken by scientists studying the eruption and this view is not available from publicly accessible areas (USGS/F. Trusdell)
 
Two people standing at an overlook toward an erupting volcanic crater at night
The view from Kīlauea Overlook, January 2, 2021 (NPS Photo/J. Wei)
 
Glowing lava dome fountain in a lake of lava at night viewed from above
Lava dome fountain in Halemaʻumaʻu crater, January 4. Note: this photo was taken by scientists studying the eruption and this view is not available from publicly accessible areas (USGS/M. Patrick)
 
Cracks on the edge of an erupting volcanic caldera
NPS Photo/A. LaValle
This photo shows just a few of the reasons why it is critical to stay on trails and in designated overlooks if visiting the park to see the current eruption.

Sinkholes, earth cracks, and unstable cliff edges are not always visible, even in daylight. Stay out of closed areas. Some areas still remain unstable after the eruption of 2018, and seismic activity is always a possibility on an active volcano.
 
Web cam image of an erupting volcanic crater, with pooling lava in the bottom

Webcams

Get a live look inside the park, courtesy of USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Park visitors watching a volcanic eruption from an overlook with a stone wall

Ranger Tips For A Successful Visit

A new eruption at the summit of Kīlauea is drawing large numbers of visitors. Plan ahead so you can stay safe and enjoy your visit.

Scientist using a monitoring device atop the edge of a lava lake in a volcanic crater

What's Going On With the Volcanoes?

Get the latest update on volcanic activity.

 
 
From lava to water and back again. Learn about three remarkable changes in the past three years at Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

Last updated: May 26, 2021

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