What's Going On With The Volcanoes?

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In 2018, a new eruption of Kīlauea volcano changed the island of Hawai‘i forever. From May through August, large lava flows covered land southeast of the park destroying over 700 homes and devastating residential areas in the Puna District. At the same time, the summit area of the park was dramatically changed by tens of thousands of earthquakes, towering ash plumes, and a massive collapse of Kīlauea caldera.

Brown steaming body of water
The body of water in Halemaʻumaʻu crater (USGS Photo/M. Patrick)
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Now Tracks Water at the Summit of Kīlauea

On August 1st, 2019, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists confirmed a growing pond of water inside Halema'uma'u crater during a helicopter overflight. Similar to the monitoring of ponded lava in Halema‘uma‘u in 2008‒2018, HVO scientists are now relying on both direct observations and modern tools to monitor and document any changes to the water.

The water in Halema‘uma‘u is not visible from publicly accessible areas of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, but HVO now has webcams that provide a direct view of the lake. To measure the level of water in the lake, HVO scientists use a long-range laser rangefinder.

Water samples indicate that the lake has a pH of 4.2 (moderately acidic, in the range of many fruit juices) and high concentrations of dissolved sulfur and magnesium. The lake is an astounding 160 feet (49 m) deep, nearly the height of a ten story building. It is approximately 430 feet (131 m) wide by 885 feet (270 m) long, with a volume of nearly 125 million gallons and growing. The water has a maximum temperature of about 80–85 degrees Celsius (176–185 degrees Fahrenheit). Learn more about the summit lake.

Current Conditions Courtesy of USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Volcanic caldera will small plumes of steam
Kīlauea caldera (NPS Photo/A. LaValle)

Current Alert Level: Normal
Activity Summary: Kīlauea Volcano is not erupting. Monitoring data for the month of October show variable but typical rates of seismicity and ground deformation, low rates of sulfur dioxide emissions, and only minor geologic changes since the end of eruptive activity in September 2018.

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

Full moon over Mauna Loa volcano
Full moon over Mauna Loa (NPS Photo/J. Wei)

Mauna Loa
Current Alert Level: Advisory
Activity Summary: Mauna Loa Volcano is not erupting. Rates of deformation and seismicity have not changed significantly over the past week and remain above long-term background levels.

For more current monitoring info about Mauna Loa, see: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mauna_loa/status.html

Current views of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, courtesy of USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Growth of the Water Lake in Halemaʻumaʻu
Steaming volcanic crater with small blue pool of water in the bottom Steaming volcanic crater with large, yellow-brown lake in the middle
Halemaʻumaʻu Crater on August 7th, 2019 (USGS/D. Swanson)
Halemaʻumaʻu Crater on April 21st, 2020 (USGS/M. Patrick)
 Drag center circle/line left and right to reveal the before and after photos.

Kīlauea Summit - Before & After Collapse
Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008 Kīlauea summit on August 1, 2018
Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008 Photo courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Kīlauea summit on August 1, 2018 Photo courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory: Before and after. At left is a photo taken on November 28, 2008, with a distinct gas plume rising from the vent that had opened within Halema‘uma‘u about eight months earlier. At right is a photo taken on August 1, 2018 after the massive summit collapses earlier in the summer. Drag center circle/line left and right to reveal the photos.

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

Last updated: November 20, 2020

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