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Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano erupts in a remote area, causes no disruption

In World
June 04, 2024

Kīlauea greeted Monday’s early morning darkness with a slow-bubbling eruption that paused before sunset and posed no threat to communities on the Big Island of Hawaii, officials said.

The volcano, Hawaii’s second largest next to neighbor Mauna Loa, started erupting through four scratch-like fissures about 12:30 a.m. in an area 2.5 miles southwest of its caldera, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Just before 3 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, the USGS declared the eruption paused. But it emphasized in an update that, “Activity in this region remains dynamic and could change quickly.”

The USGS said seismic activity near the eruption “decreased greatly,” and visible lava emission ceased about 12 hours after the eruption began.

The National Park Service, which runs Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, where Kīlauea is located, said in its own update: “It is unlikely a night-time glow or lava viewing will be visible at this time.”

The first helicopter overflight of Kīlauea's new SW rift zone eruption site at 6 AM HST on June 3, 2024 showed lava fountaining from 1 km (0.5 mi)-long fissures and volcanic gases blowing downwind. (@USGSVolcanoes via X.com)

The first helicopter overflight of Kīlauea’s new SW rift zone eruption site at 6 AM HST on June 3, 2024 showed lava fountaining from 1 km (0.5 mi)-long fissures and volcanic gases blowing downwind. (@USGSVolcanoes via X.com)

Earlier in the afternoon, only one of the fissures, one slightly more than a half-mile long, was active, the agency said. The USGS and the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said the Big Island’s volcano alert level was downgraded from warning to watch, meaning an eruption with limited hazards is underway.

In announcing the eruption had paused on Monday, the USGS said the volcano alert level would remain at watch.

The eruption was within a zone surrounding the caldera that has been closed since early 2008, when sulfur dioxide emissions and an eruption triggered safety concerns.

Monday’s eruption was remote enough that officials didn’t foresee threats to Big Island communities.

Federal geologists compared the eruption to one in the same location in December 1974 that lasted six hours. “Fissures from this eruption have the same orientation,” the USGS said in its update.

The eruption early Monday took place under the watchful gaze of seismometers, GPS monitors, tiltmeters, infrasound gauges, gas detectors and thermal and visual cameras maintained by the Hilo-based Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The federal observatory’s scientist-in-charge Ken Hon told NBC News affiliate KHNL of Honolulu, “This was a real sneaky eruption.”

Still, it didn’t come without some of those 200 sensors sounding off. The USGS said in its latest update that the eruption was accompanied by more than 400 small earthquakes since the weekend, including a magnitude-4.0 earthquake at 7:07 p.m. Sunday, tiltmeter readings indicating significant ground deformation and elevated sulfur dioxide gas emission rates.

And the federal scientists in Hilo knew something was afoot. “Rates of seismicity and deformation increased greatly after 5:00 p.m. on June 2, prompting the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to raise Kīlauea’s alert level,” the USGS said in its update.

Gas emissions were a primary concern, the agency said.

The National Park Service said some areas of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park would remain closed, including Maunaiki Trail, a remote, 7-mile path near Kīlauea, a stretch of Hilina Pali Road, Kulanaokuaiki Campground, Pepeiao Cabin, Kaʻaha Trail and campground, and the Kaʻū Desert Trail and pullout on Highway 11.

A USGS primer on Hawaii volcanoes said Kīlauea is an overachiever, having erupted “almost continuously” from 1983 to 2018. It last erupted in September.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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