September 2021 eruption

Black silhouettes of trees and foliage in the foreground frame a distant crater with bright orange glow and smoke billowing into an orange sky.
Halemaʻumaʻu at night as seen from the east side of the Kīlauea caldera on the night of October 1, 2021.

NPS photo/Janice Wei

 
On September 29 at 3:20 pm HST, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected a fissure eruption within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Kaluapele (the Kīlauea summit caldera). The new eruption began four months after the end of the previous Kīlauea eruption which ended on May 26, 2021. The crater floor has risen by about 154 feet (47 meters) since lava emerged on September 29. According to the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory observation on October 22, lava continues to erupt from a single vent in the western wall of Halemaʻumaʻu crater. All lava activity is confined within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Check the volcano eruption status for the latest developments.
 
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Duration:
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The eruption at Halemaʻumaʻu has come up with a C-shaped spatter rampart around fountaining lava where the source is submerged in the rising lava lake. This video was taken with a 600 mm camera lens on 10/22/2021.

 
People stand along a cliff overlook looking down into a crater with smoke billowing out.
Visitors watch the eruption plume from Uēkahuna Overlook just after sunrise on September 30.

NPS Photo/Janice Wei

What can you see in the day?

Visitors arriving during the day can view the volcanic gas and steam from the eruption within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Koaʻekea, white-tailed tropicbirds, are often observed flying above the crater.

The eruption is visible from Kaluapele, the summit caldera, along open areas of the rim. Lava fountains are only visible only from the south caldera rim at Keanakākoʻi Overlook. Avoid crowds and traffic by visiting this overlook during the day.

Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.
 
People standing at a cliff overlook at night with bright orange light glowing from a crater and orange clouds of smoke.
Visitors near Keanakākoʻi crater on the south side of Kaluapele (Kīlauea caldera) look towards Halemaʻumaʻu on October 2.

NPS photo/Janice Wei

What can you see at night?

The massive 134-acre lava lake made of molten rock casts a magnificent reddish orange glow into the dark sky. The glow reflects onto the gas plume wafting out of the volcano, and to any clouds above the summit crater, Halemaʻumaʻu. Jagged crater walls are illuminated, showing the scars from the 2018 summit collapse.

The bursting spatter cone and lava lake is visible from the south rim along Old Crater Rim Drive after a moderate hike. For easier viewing, the lava lake is occasionally visible from Kīlauea Overlook, and 200 yards (180 meters) east of Uēkahuna along Crater Rim Trail near a large concrete foundation.

Bring a flashlight! Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.
 

Eruption Viewing Tips

  • Park landscapes are sacred places for many people. Please be respectful and allow others to practice their culture privately.
  • Maintain social distance of 6 feet from others and wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you are sick, visit another day.
  • Volcanic eruptions can be hazardous and change at any time. Stay on marked trails and overlooks, and avoid earth cracks and cliff edges. Do not enter closed areas.
  • Hazardous volcanic gas can be a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children, and pregnant women. Check the air quality before and during your visit.
  • Slow down and drive safely. Expect long waits for parking spaces at popular vantage points like Uēkahuna (formerly the Jaggar Museum) and Keanakākoʻi.
  • Check the weather. At 4,000 feet above sea level, the summit of Kīlauea can be raining and cold at any time. Bring a rain jacket; wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. Bring a flashlight if visiting at night. Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure views.
 

Where are the best eruption viewing locations?

Use the drop down menu below for information on the six best viewing locations. Check out a park map and Plan Your Visit page before arriving at the park to select your itinerary and options. Or better yet, download the new NPS moble app.

Please note parking lots are often full. If you are planning to see the glow at night, pack your patience and expect traffic delays, full parking lots, and walking extra distances to access overlooks. Don't forget to bring a flashlight! Check the parking page to find out when each parking lot is typically full.
One of the easiest and most convenient places to view the eruption is from inside or just outside the Volcano House hotel along Crater Rim Trail. Visitors can watch from comfort inside while dining or from behind Volcano House along an established overlook. Park at the Kīlauea Visitor Center and walk accross the road down a lit pathway. Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.

Where to park: park at the Volcano House or Kīlauea Visitor Center, just after the entrance station.
Walking distance: approximately 600-800 feet
Distance to Halemaʻumaʻu: approximately two miles
Restroom: Yes

Face masks are required to enter Volcano House.
UPDATE: the new observation area to the west of the parking lot is closed until further notice to protect rare native species.

Located at the site of the former Jaggar MuseumUēkahuna is the closest eruption viewpoint accessible by car. After you enter the park, continue driving straight heading west for about 2.75 miles on Crater Rim Drive. The road will end at the Uēkahuna (old Jaggar Museum) parking lot. An observation area is accessible to the east via short walk on Crater Rim Trail. The lava lake is ocassionally visible 200 yards (180 meters) east of Uēkahuna along Crater Rim Trail near a small concrete foundation. Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.

Where to park: at the Uēkahuna (old Jaggar Museum) parking area
Walking distance: 800-900 feet to the east of the parking lot over mostly paved terrain with some elevation gain
Distance to Halemaʻumaʻu: about one mile
Restroom: Yes

This is an unlit area, make sure to bring a flashlight if visiting at night! 
 
To reach Kīlauea Overlook, continue driving west on Crater Rim Drive for just over two miles after entering the park. Turn left after the sign reading "Kīlauea." This location is about a half mile east of Uēkahuna and may serve as overflow parking if Uēkahuna parking is full. The lava lake is occasionally visible in this area depending on eruption conditions. Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.

Where to park: Kīlauea Overlook parking area
Walking distance: 300-400 feet over uneven terrain
Distance to Halemaʻumaʻu: just over one mile
Restroom: Yes

This is an unlit area, make sure to bring a flashlight if visiting at night!
Wahinekapu is accessible from the Steam Vents parking area which is located one mile west of the park entrance on the left. Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.

Where to park: Steam Vents parking area
Walking distance: 600-700 feet over uneven terrain
Distance to Halemaʻumaʻu: approximately 1.75 miles
Restrooms: No

This is an unlit area, make sure to bring a flashlight if visiting at night! 
To access Kūpinaʻi Pali overlook, park at the Kīlauea Visitor Center on the right just after the entrance station. Cross Crater Rim Drive and walk south on Crater Rim Trail. This is one of the least crowded and more private viewing locations. Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.

Where to Park: Kīlauea Visitor Center
Walking distance: about one half mile over mostly paved terrain
Distance to Halemaʻumaʻu: approximately two miles
Restrooms: No

This is an unlit area, make sure to bring a flashlight if visiting at night! 
 
To access Keanakākoʻi, turn left just after the entrance station and drive south on Crater Rim Drive for about three miles until you reach the intersection with Chain of Craters Road. Turn right and park at the Devastation Trail parking area. After parking, walk back towards the intersection and turn right on Old Crater Rim Drive. Continue walking for just over one mile. Do not enter closed areas. Although this location provides the best views of the lava fountains and lava lake, it is the most difficult to access. Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.
 
Where to park: Devastation Trail parking area (limited parking) or Puʻupuaʻi parking area
Walking distance: approximately 1 mile one-way, 2.5 round-trip over mostly paved terrain if parked at Devastation Trail or approximately 1.5 miles one-way, 3 round-trip if parked at Puʻupuaʻi. 500 ft (150 m) of this trail is over loose cinders and an uneven surface.
Distance to Halemaʻumaʻu: approximately 0.5 miles
Restrooms: Yes, at Devastation Trail parking area, no restroom at overlook

WARNING: This is a relatively long, unlit hike over areas with earthcracks. Do not attempt this hike at night without a flashlight (cell phones are not substitutes for flashlights). Due to the longer walking distance, hikers may be exposed to high levels of sulfur dioxide. Check the air quality before starting the hike.
 
Man in crouched position holding a bundle wrapped in leaves and flowers overlooking a crater.
Cultural practitioner presenting hoʻokupu (offering) at Halemaʻumaʻu.

NPS Photo/D. Boyle

More than just an eruption

While Kīlauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, known for many celebrated past eruptions, it is also a sacred landscape filled with wahi pana (legendary places) such as Uēkahuna, Puʻuloa, Kaʻauea, and others. Your visit can be more meaningful by learning about some of the deep connections with Native Hawaiian culture. Explore this website to learn about the Hawaiian volcano deity Pele and the many moʻolelo (stories) associated with these incredible lava landscapes.
 
Aerial map of Kīlauea summit area with red, white, blue multicolored circle at bottom of map indicating thermal temperatures of lava lake.
The scale of the thermal map ranges from blue to red, with blue colors indicative of cooler temperatures and red colors indicative of warmer temperatures. The only remaining active eruptive vent at this time is the west vent; several hotspots in the southern part of the lava lake correspond with short lava cascades between the higher western half and lower eastern half of the lake

Courtesy of the USGS/M.Patrick

 

Before and after eruption comparison

View looking down into deep large crater with dark brown surface and large flat bottom. View looking down into deep large crater with dark brown surface and large flat bottom.

Left image
KWcam image taken on September 29, 2021, at 3:20 p.m. HST. This image shows the lava lake that was active within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea from December 2020 until May 2021 just prior to a new eruption beginning.
Credit: USGS webcam image

Right image
KWcam image taken on October 2, 2021, at 6 a.m. HST. This image shows the ongoing eruption within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea. The eruption began the afternoon of September 29, 2021.
Credit: USGS webcam image

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory KWcam at Kīlauea's summit has captured changes within Halemaʻumaʻu crater, at Kīlauea's summit, due to the eruption that began on September 29, 2021. At approximately 3:21 pm, HST, new fissures opened at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater. These fissures opened east of the large island near the center of the lava lake that was active within Halemaʻumaʻu crater from December 2020 until May 2021. The first image was taken on September 29, 2021, just before the eruption began; the second image was taken the morning of October 2, 2021, and shows the continuing eruption and growing lava lake. USGS webcam images taken from closed areas within the park. 

 
 

Eruption Chronology

Eruption chronology courtesy of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

  • On September 29, at 3:30 pm HST, three fissures opened east of the large island near the center of the lava lake that was active within Halemaʻumaʻu crater from December 2020 until May 2021. The new fissures generated lava flows on the surface of the previous lava lake surface.
  • At approximately 4:43 p.m. HST, another vent opened on the west wall of Halemaʻumaʻu crater.
  • The new eruption is generating a vigorous plume of volcanic gas. The volcanic gas, which includes sulfur dioxide (SO2), interacts in the atmosphere with oxygen, moisture, dust, and sunlight over minutes to days and forms volcanic air pollution, or VOG, which can be transported downwind. An estimated 85,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide emissions were generated during the first day of the eruption, dropping to an estimated 20,000 tonnes per day on September 30 and 12,900 tonnes per day on October 1.
  • Lava was slightly visible from multiple open areas of the park on the night of September 30.
  • By October 1, the growing lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu is estimated to have risen roughly 89 feet (27 meters) since the eruption started on September 29. The estimated area of the lake is about 134 acres (54 hectares).
  • On October 2, USGS field crews measured lava fountain heights of approximately 7 meters (7.7 yds) from the main vent and 1.1-2.2 yards (1-2 meters) from the southernmost vents. Occasional fountain height bursts have been observed over the past 24 hours, including a burst this morning with estimated heights of 55-66 yards (50-60 meters).
  • Lava continued to erupt from multiple vents within Halemaʻumaʻu through October 3 and 4. During that time, the lava lake rose approximately 6.6 feet (2 meters). Due to the location of vents, the lava lake is not level across its surface; areas closer to the vents are higher in elevation. Sustained lava fountain heights of 16-33 feet (5-10 meters) were observed.
  • On October 6 observers noted that the lava lake level rose approximately 2 meters (7 ft) over the past 24 hours with a total rise of about 31 meters (102 ft) since lava emerged on September 29. The total thickness of lava filling Halemaʻumaʻu is now 256 meters (840 ft ) with a lake surface elevation of approximately 774 meters (2539 ft) above sea level. The west vent continues to have the most vigorous fountain with sustained lava fountain heights of about 14–15 meters (49 ft). The lava lake has risen above the base of the vent and the fountain has built a spatter rampart around most of it. Another vent continues to be active in the southern part of the lake with lava fountain heights averaging 3 meters (10 ft). Due to the location of vents, the lava lake is not level across its surface. Areas closer to vents in the west and south part are about 1–2 m (3–7 ft) higher in elevation compared to the north and east end of the lava lake. Crustal foundering, a process by which cooled lava crust on the lake surface sinks into the hot underlying lake lava, is observed on the active surface of the lava lake. The active lava lake surface is perched 1 meter (3 ft) above a 20-meter-wide (66 ft) ledge that extends outward to the Halemaʻumaʻu crater wall.
  • October 10, 2021. A magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit off-shore southwest of the island of Hawaiʻi, rattling residents. According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the earthquake was centered about 27 km (17 miles) south-southeast of Nāʻālehu at a depth of 35 km (22 mi). The earthquake had no significant observable affect on Kīlauea volcano except for a few rock falls.
  • October 15, 2021. The activity of the lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu crater decreased over the past week. Lava continues to fill the western half of the lava lake from the erupting western fissure. Much of the eastern half of the lake surface has cooled and formed a solid crust. The lava lake measures approximately 1,035 m (3,396 ft) long in the east–west direction and 745 m (2,444 ft) wide in the north–south direction. SO2 gas emission rates remain elevated and were measured at approximately 5,400 tonnes per day.
  • October 19, 2021. USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists estimated 4.2 billion gallons of lava (15.9 million cubic meters) have filled the lava lake since the summit eruption began three weeks ago on September 29. The lava lake has filled the crater to about 46 meters (151 ft) since lava emerged on September 29.
  • October 24, 2021. The rising lava lake was oberved for the first time from Kīlauea Overlook and continues to be visible from Uēkahuna and Keanakāko‘i.
  • October 26, 2021. Low lava fountains a few meters (yards) tall were common. Sometimes fountains would reach up to 12 meters (39 ft). The cone was measured at 25 meters (82 ft) above the active lava lake surface. Lava is ponding within the cone and flows down the spillway—which is about 7 meters (23 ft) long—supplying lava into the lake below.

Last updated: October 26, 2021

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