The complex, effusive, and infrequently furious eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island – centered on both Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u summit crater and down its flanks in the East Rift Zone (ERZ) – is all kinds of things at this point: spectacular, dangerous, somewhat unpredictable, and at the same time, precisely what volcanologists expected.
At the moment, what’s catching most people’s eyes are the dozens of fissures, which are producing varying amounts of fresh lava. Thanks to the ejection of some colder, less gassy reserves earlier on during the proceedings, these fissures are now effusing more fluid, gas-rich crimson and yellow hues. As sulfur dioxide emissions spike (triple from a few days beforehand, in fact), prominent lava fountaining can also be observed.
This is keeping everyone at the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) – and volcanologists up and down the globe, in fact – incredibly busy. Working with the Civil Defense, they’ve warned people away from the acidic laze clouds being produced along the coast, evacuated residents from incoming lava flows, and politely asked people to stay away from those lava fountains.
So far, there’s only been one single major injury, when lava spatter – the little sister to those lava fountains – hit someone’s leg, causing it to shatter. Considering the extent of the eruption, that’s incredibly impressive, and everyone working or communicating factual information about the events deserve our plaudits and full support.
In the midst of all this chaos, though, it’s good to take the time to sit back and just watch it unfold, if you can afford to. Volcanoes, wherever they may be, are nature’s greatest fireworks displays. They’re fiery forges, whose lava creates brand-new land. That footage you’re watching of those lava fountains isn’t just the result of some basic, bonkers physics, but the generation of new earth.
That in itself is spectacular, but there’s only so much you can get from pre-existing footage. That’s why you should take five minutes out of your day, at least, to watch this live feed of a small segment of the eruptive activity.
One of several live feeds provided by Honolulu Civil Beat, this camera is placed just a few hundred meters (about half a mile) away from fissures 20 and 17. At the time of writing, spatter and lava fountaining is clear to see, set against the silhouetted, forested hills of Lower Puna.
The latest advisory from the USGS notes that “magma continues to be supplied to the lower East Rift Zone,” adding that, “additional ground cracking and outbreaks of lava are possible in the area,” including the Leilani Estates subdivision.
As ever, the advice remains the same. Pay attention to the authorities, don’t believe hyperbolic rumors, and don’t take any risks with your life.