Late on Sunday, December 20, an eruption began within the Halema’uma’u crater. The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) Washington warned about a volcanic ash plume that rose up to estimated 30000 ft (9100 m) altitude or flight level 300.
At 9.38 UTC on Monday (Sunday, December 20, 2020, 11.38pm local time), a USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a statement it had recorded a magnitude-4.4 earthquake located beneath Kīlauea Volcano’s south flank on Sunday at 10.36pm HST.
The statement added: “The earthquake was centered about 14 km (8.7 miles) south of Fern Forest, near the Hōlei Pali area of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park at a depth of 6 km (4 miles).
“Weak to light shaking, with maximum Intensity of IV, has been reported across the Island of Hawai‘i.
“At that intensity, significant damage to buildings or structures is not expected.”
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According to HVO acting Scientist-in-Charge David Phillips: “HVO continues to monitor Kīlauea as the situation is rapidly evolving with this evening’s eruption at the summit of Kīlauea. We will send out further notifications on Kīlauea and other Hawaiian volcanoes as we observe changes.”
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has now upgraded Kilauea’s alert level to WARNING, and aviation colour code to RED.
A report said: “Shortly after approximately 9.30pm HST, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected glow within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano.
“An eruption has commenced within Kīlauea’s summit caldera. The situation is rapidly evolving and HVO will issue another statement when more information is available.”
The report added: “Whereas this type of seismicity was observed on average once every few weeks following the 2018 eruption, rates have increased to over a dozen in the past several days.
“Other monitoring data streams including volcanic gas and webcam imagery were stable until this eruption.
“An earthquake swarm began on the evening of December 20, accompanied by ground deformation detected by tiltmeters.
“An orange glow was subsequently observed on IR monitoring cameras and visually beginning approximately 21:36 HST.”
A special weather statement was issued by the National Weather Service Honolulu, which reads: “Web cams and radar data indicate a strong eruption has occurred at Halemaumau Crater.
“Low level trade winds will push any embedded ash toward the southwest, and any ash fallout will likely occur over the Kau District and Highway 11 southwest of the town of Volcano.
“This includes the communities of Pahala, Wood Valley, Naalehu and Ocean View.
“Avoid excessive exposure to ash which is an eye and respiratory irritant.
“Those with respiratory sensitivities should take extra precaution to minimize exposure.”
Where is Kilauea?
The Kilauea volcano is situated within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and is the youngest and southeastern most volcano on the Island of Hawaii.
For the past several weeks, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) states it has recorded “ground deformation and earthquake rates at Kīlauea Volcano’s summit and upper East Rift Zone”, which have “exceeded background levels observed since the conclusion of the 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse.”
Since 1952, Kīlauea has erupted 34 times.