HVNP Remains Open Amid New Eruption at Kīlauea Summit

December 21, 2020, 11:55 AM HST

Kīlauea’s summit eruption at 2:15 a.m. HST on December 21. From the west rim of Kīlauea caldera, a gas plume can be seen rising from Halemaʻumaʻu crater. This plume is drifting to the southwest with the trade winds. Increased sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rates associated with new eruption may lead to voggy conditions downwind. USGS photo.

Volcanoes National Park has remained open since the eruption at Kīlauea Volcano Sunday evening.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected a glow within Halmemaʻumaʻu Crater at the summit of Kīlauea volcano, heralding a new eruption. Three fissures opened on the crater walls, and lava cascaded into the water lake, boiling it away.

The eruption was followed by a Magnitude 4.4 earthquake about an hour later beneath the volcano’s south flank.

Lava fountains were observed on USGS webcams, with the tallest at 165 feet. It is the first time lava has been present on the island of Hawaiʻi since the 2018 Lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse at Kīlauea.

“The return of lava to the summit of Kīlauea is a natural wonder, but we need the public to be fully aware that we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and to recreate responsibly, maintain social distance and to wear a mask,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “We want to keep the park open for all to experience this new phase of volcanic activity, and we need visitors to follow safety guidelines that keep everyone safe. We continue to work with USGS scientists to receive the latest volcanic updates, and remind visitors that the eruptive activity and accessibility could change at any time.”


All areas that were open in the park before the new eruption began remain open. Vantage points for viewing the new eruption include Wahinekapu (Steaming Bluff), Kīlauea Overlook, Keanakākoʻi, Waldron Ledge and other overlooks along Crater Rim Trail.


Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) remains closed due to COVID-19 concerns.

The park remains open 24 hours a day, and the public is reminded to stay safe by following these precautions:

  • 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 gases are billowing out the crater and present a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women.
  • Slow down and drive safely. Expect long waits for parking spaces at popular vantage points like Kīlauea Overlook.
  • Maintain social distance of six feet from others and wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • At 4,000 feet, the summit of Kīlauea can be chilly at any time. Bring a rain jacket, wear long pants and closed-toe shoes.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments


Get a quick summary of what’s happening on the Big Island with our daily & weekly email of news highlights.