Map of lava flows from Kīlauea volcano color coded by year with lava flow hazard zones
Map from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of lava flows from Kīlauea, color coded by eruption and designated lava flow hazard zone (Click for full size image)

ʻĀina a ke akua i noho ai
(Land where the goddess dwells)

Kīlauea is the youngest and most active volcano on the island of Hawaiʻi, and one of the busiest in the world. In recorded history, Kīlauea has only had short periods of repose. It has covered almost 90% of its surface in lava flows within the last 1,000 years. Some say that even the name Kīlauea translates to “spewing" or "much spreading”.

First forming underwater roughly 280,000 years ago, Kīlauea is a fairly typical shield volcano with long, shallow slopes. Its surface makes up an area slightly smaller than the island of Oʻahu.

Traditionally, Kīlauea is viewed by many Native Hawaiians as the home of the volcanic deity Pelehonuamea. She is said to reside in Halemaʻumaʻu crater, a persistently active pit within the summit caldera. Halemaʻumaʻu crater has a long history of lava lake-style eruptive events. It is currently home to a lava lake that appeared on September 29, 2021.

Radiating out from the summit, Kīlauea has two rift zones stretching to the east and southwest. These rift zones host most eruptions that occur outside of the summit. The East Rift is historically the more active of the two, most recently erupting from January 1983 to August 2018.

From May to July 2018, a massive eruption on the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea relieved magmatic pressure under Halemaʻumaʻu, causing the crater to collapse and expand from 280 feet (85m) deep and 0.5 miles (0.8 km) wide to 1600 feet (487m) deep and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide.
Rainbow rising from a black lake of molten lava within a volcanic crater
Lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu during the 2020-2021 eruption (USGS/F. Trusdell)

Then in 2019, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists confirmed a growing lake of water inside Halema'uma'u crater. Never before in modern history had there been water visible at the summit of Kīlauea in the form of a lake. But on December 20, 2020, the ten-story deep lake was boiled off when lava re-entered Halemaʻumaʻu. What will Kīlauea do next?


Recent Events at Kīlauea

Molten lava spraying out of a fissure

Learn about some of the previous eruptions of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa

A brown lake in a volcanic crater with a swirl of turquoise on the lower half
Kīlauea Summit Lake

In August 2019, water appeared in the form of a lake in Halemaʻumaʻu crater

A volcanic ash plume.
Three Big Changes in Three Years

From lava to water and back again. Learn about three remarkable changes at Halemaʻumaʻu crater from 2018 to 2020.

Last updated: June 14, 2024

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