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Summit Eruption of Kīlauea Has Paused

December 21, 2021, 3:29 PM HST
* Updated December 21, 3:31 PM
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The summit eruption of Kīlauea volcano has paused, officials reported this morning.

Based on the size and duration of recent pauses, the current pause is expected to last several days, according to an update from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. All recent lava activity remains confined within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and there are no signs of activity migrating elsewhere on Kīlauea.

Lava has ceased erupting from the western vent although glow is still visible near the vent, the report stated. The surface of the lake is crusted over following a sequence of partial overturns last night. The lake has seen a total rise of about 226 feet since lava emerged on Sept. 29. The total erupted volume since the beginning of the eruption was estimated to be about 7.8 billion gallons on Nov. 16.

No unusual activity has been noted in the Kīlauea East Rift Zone. Low rates of ground deformation and seismicity continue along the rift zones. SO2 and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emissions from Puʻuʻōʻō were below instrumental detection levels when last measured on Jan. 7, 2021.

Kīlauea summit on Dec. 20, 2021. (Courtesy of USGS)

Rapid deflationary tilt began Dec. 20 at about 11 a.m. and flattened out early this morning. A volcanic tremor associated with the eruption has virtually ceased and earthquake activity remains below background. The most recent measurement of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate on December 16 was approximately 1,400 tonnes per day.

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This new eruption at Kīlauea’s summit is occurring within a closed area of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Therefore, high levels of volcanic gas are the primary hazard of concern, as this hazard can have far-reaching effects downwind. Large amounts of volcanic gas—primarily water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2)—are continuously released during eruptions of Kīlauea Volcano.

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As SO2 is released from the summit, it reacts in the atmosphere to create the visible haze known as vog (volcanic smog) that has been observed downwind of Kīlauea. Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors, damages agricultural crops and other plants, and affects livestock. For more information on gas hazards at the summit of Kīlauea, see: https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/fs20173017. Vog information can be found at https://vog.ivhhn.org/. 

Additional hazards include Pele’s hair and other lightweight volcanic glass fragments from the lava fountains that will fall downwind of the fissure vents and dust the ground within a few hundred meters (yards) of the vent(s). Strong winds may waft lighter particles to greater distances. Residents should minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation. 

Other significant hazards also remain around Kīlauea caldera from Halemaʻumaʻu crater wall instability, ground cracking, and rockfalls that can be enhanced by earthquakes within the area closed to the public. This underscores the extremely hazardous nature of Kīlauea caldera rim surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu crater, an area that has been closed to the public since early 2008. 

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For discussion of Kīlauea hazards, see: https://www.usgs.gov/observatories/hawaiian-volcano-observatory/hazards 

Please see the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park website for visitor information: https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm. Visitors to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park should note that under southerly (non-trade) wind conditions, there is potential for a dusting of powdery to gritty ash composed of volcanic glass and rock fragments. These ashfalls represent a minor hazard, but visitors should be aware that dustings of ash at areas around the Kīlauea summit are possible. 

HVO continues to closely monitor Kīlauea Volcano.

HVO will continue to issue daily Kīlauea Volcano updates until further notice. Additional messages will be issued as needed.

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