7 January 2023.
Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, one of the world’s most active, erupted again on January 5th, 2022, releasing lava fountains and discharges of volcanic ash into the air. While the eruption is providing a spectacle for visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, no Big Island communities are in danger.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory detected a glow in webcam images indicating Kilauea had begun erupting inside Halemaumau crater at the volcano’s summit caldera. The observatory raised Kilauea’s alert level on Thursday, but on Friday morning lowered it from warning to watch because the initial high effusion rates are declining and no infrastructure is threatened. The observatory expects the eruption to remain in the summit.
There is generally a three-month cooling off period before scientists consider an eruption to be complete. It is currently unclear why both Kilauea and Mauna Loa ceased erupting at around the same time in December 2021.
Cultural and Spiritual Significance
Volcanic eruptions hold significant cultural and spiritual meanings for native Hawaiians. During the Mauna Loa eruption in November 2021, many Hawaiians participated in traditional practices such as singing, chanting, and dancing in honor of Pele, the god of fire and volcanoes.
About Kilauea Volcano
The Kilauea volcano is the most active of the five volcanoes that make up the Island of Hawaii. It is a shield volcano, which is a type of volcano composed of fluid lava and characterized by its vast lava flow. Kilauea has two active rift zones and a recently formed caldera, a massive depression formed when the ground surface collapses into an emptied magma chamber. The pit crater within Kilauea is called Halemaumau, which contained a lava lake before it began erupting in multiple locations in 2018.
Kilauea’s Last Eruptions
This is not the first time Kilauea has erupted in recent years. It last erupted for 16 months starting in September 2021, and for about two weeks in November 2021, Hawaii had two volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, spewing lava side by side. Mauna Loa had not erupted in 38 years. Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park were able to see lava from both events at the same time.
Kilauea’s summit, where the current eruption is taking place, is inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and away from residential communities. This is reassuring for Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth, who stated, “We’re feeling pretty good about where it’s at right now.” The Big Island is no stranger to the dangers of living with active volcanoes. In November 2021, Mauna Loa lava came within 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) of a major highway connecting the east and west sides of the island. And in 2018, a Kilauea eruption destroyed over 700 residences.
The Five Major Volcanoes of Hawaii Island
In addition to Kilauea, the Island of Hawaii is made up of four other volcanoes: Kohala (extinct), Mauna Kea (dormant), Hualalai (dormant), and Mauna Loa (active). The island is currently growing due to the activity of Mauna Loa and Kilauea.