Nature

Hawaii’s most active volcano has just erupted, triggering an earthquake

One of the world’s most active volcanoes has maintained its reputation, erupting late Sunday night in Honolulu.

Honolulu’s Kilauea (meaning spewing or much spreading) volcano began erupting at 9:30 pm on December 20. An hour later, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook the island, with its effects felt by over 500 locals.

After detecting a glow within Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u crater, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) were forced to issue a level RED warning due to the dangerous presence of water at the volcano’s summit. The interaction between the lava and water blew a steam cloud into Honolulu’s atmosphere that lingered for nearly an hour.

volcano hawaii
Image: IStockPhoto, Frizi

The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that a lake had formed in the volcano’s crater in 2019, after a green patch was noticed at the bottom of the peak. Researchers found that the mystery patch was, in fact, water, with levels only continuing to rise since its appearance.

The HVO warned locals of potentially dangerous ash from the volcano and the exposure of this ash to the eyes and the respiratory system.

The explosion was described by the HVO as a “bright glow and vigorous steam plum, generated by the boiling water lake.” According to Hawaiian National Weather Service forecaster Tom Birchard, the interaction of water inside the crater created a “short-lived but fairly vigorous eruption… with all the water evaporating out of the lake and shooting in a steam cloud 9km into the atmosphere.”

A fountain of lava reportedly shot over 50 metres into the sky and filled the pre-existing basin, creating a yummy new lava lake.

Although the explosion is assured to hold no threat to communities, Kilauea’s previous explosion in 2018 caused serious damages. The eruption destroyed over 700 homes, producing enough lava to fill 700 swimming pools.

Since the 2018 eruption, Kilauea has remained in a “non-eruptive unrest” period. Sunday’s eruption has remained confined to the Halema’uma’u crater and alert levels were downgraded yesterday by the USGS from RED to ORANGE.