2020-2021 Summit Eruption

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Kīlauea Volcano began erupting on December 20, 2020, at about 9:30 p.m. HST in Halema‘uma‘u crater. The last activity on the lava lake surface was observed on May 23, 2021.

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.

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

A volcanic cinder cone emitting steam.


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

Deep dark crater at night with bright orange glow and smoke.

September 2021-2022 Summit Eruption

The 300-acre lava lake provided spectacular views for park visitors.

Scientist using a monitoring device atop the edge of 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 at Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

Last updated: December 27, 2022

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