Heightened unrest at Kīlauea volcano on Hawai‘i Island

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Screenshot taken May 23 of Kīlauea volcano at Halema’uma’u Crater. Webcam: U.S. Geological Survey

Kīlauea volcano on the Big Island is not erupting – but its summit is currently exhibiting signs of heightened unrest.

Seismicity remains elevated, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, and unusual activity has been noted along Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone or Southwest Rift Zone.

No active lava has been observed over the past day. A live-stream video of the crater is available here.


Summit observations show overall, inflation at the summit of Kīlauea is still higher than conditions preceding the Jan. 5, 2023, summit eruption. Earthquake rates are elevated beneath Kīlauea summit and Nāmakanipaio.

Small flurries of earthquakes are occurring irregularly. More than 100 earthquakes were recorded on May 20 including a magnitude-3.7 event that was felt in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and surrounding communities. Most of these earthquakes have been smaller than magnitude-2 and not reported felt.

The most recent sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate of approximately 151 tonnes per day was measured on May 16.


No unusual activity has been noted along the East Rift Zone or Southwest Rift Zone; steady rates of ground deformation and seismicity continue along both. Measurements from continuous gas monitoring stations in the middle East Rift Zone—the site of 1983–2018 eruptive activity—remain below detection limits for SO2.

Recent eruptions at the summit of Kīlauea volcano have been occurring within a closed area of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. 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. 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 the volcano. Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors, damages agricultural crops and other plants, and affects livestock. 


Additional hazards during a summit eruption may include Pele’s hair and other lightweight volcanic glass fragments from lava fountains that fall downwind and dust the ground within a few hundred yards of the erupting fissure vent or vents. 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 the rim surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu crater, an area that has been closed to the public since early 2008. 

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