Spawned from the active lava lake in Kīlauea’s Halema’uma’u crater, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has captured an incredible dome fountain spewing lava 5 meters (16. feet) high into the air as fresh lava enters from an inlet and is forced upwards. The footage was captured on January 2-3 and was detailed in a Kīlauea volcano update recently.
Sitting within Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano, which famously erupted in 2018, the Halema’uma’u crater is now home to a sprawling lava lake after a recent eruption in December 2020. The crater previously contained a lake of water, but a fissure in the side wall allowed lava to cascade down and vaporize the lake before slowly filling the crater with lava. It continues to fill and has now reached 191 meters (627 feet) deep, but the lava remains confined to the crater.
Watch as the lava creates a flowing dome as it rises out of the lake before crashing back down in the video below.
The lake is continuously fed by vents in the crater walls, one of which is the reason for the spectacular fountain display, which is estimated to be about 10 meters (33 feet) wide.
“Lava from the western vent cascades beneath roofed vertical channels to enter the lava lake at an inlet that has become partially submerged. The result is a rolling upwelling of lava near the inlet called a ‘dome fountain,’” states the USGS in the video description.
“Dome fountains have been observed during eruptions at Mauna Ulu and Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō. Dome fountains can occur when lava rapidly emerges from a constricted vent or fissure onto the surface or, as in this case, beneath the surface of a lava lake. The feature resembles, in part, a bubbling water fountain.”
Standing at 4,091 feet (1,247 meters), Kīlauea is an active shield volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Formed 210,000-280,000 years ago, the volcano remains extremely active and has erupted almost continuously from 1983 to 2018, which culminated in an explosive eruption in May 2018. The latest eruption occurred on December 20, 2020, leading to the formation of the Halema’uma’u lake.
The rapidly-filling lake has been under intense monitoring since its recent formation, with sulfur dioxide levels continuously checked in case of dangerously high emissions. A near-real-time webcam feed of the crater lake can be watched here.
The USGS will continually monitor the lake for any potential hazards, with the main issue being a large amount of toxic volcanic gas and particles that are escaping the lake and being carried by wind to nearby inhabited areas. The report urges protective measures for residents and to minimize exposure to the volcanic particles where possible.