Kilauea Volcano Eruption Continues

The current eruption of Kilauea volcano continues within the confines of the National Park. The lava activity is only occurring in the Halemaumau crater of the greater Kilauea caldera system. No private property is under threat at this time. It looks like this eruption will be confined mostly to the Kilauea summit. It could last for quite a while.

As a result we will limit our coverage of this eruption to one post a week unless some significant and threatening changes occur. For now the eruption is a scientific study and drive-in curiosity for those who are interested in all things volcano. Visitors to the national park will not be able to see the lava lake from any of the public viewing spots and to go beyond barriers could get park visitors in trouble. Heed to the warnings.

The best way to view the eruption is to keep up with news, photos and videos posted by the USGS and reliable local resources such as Big Island Video News and the Hawaii Tribune Herald. There are also several individuals who reside in the area posting video updates and information to platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Just be cautious as to who your sources are. There are plenty of second and third hand media producers who do not actually live or work on Hawaii island who are posting content regarding the volcano. This blog is one of them, but I try to use the local sources as well as the USGS for any content regarding this eruption and all others.

U.S. Geological Survey
Wednesday, December 30, 2020, 8:00 AM HST (Wednesday, December 30, 2020, 18:00 UTC)

19°25’16” N 155°17’13” W, Summit Elevation 4091 ft (1247 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

Activity Summary: Lava activity is confined to Halemaʻumaʻu with lava erupting from vents on the northwest side of the crater. As of 3:45 am this morning (Dec. 30), the lava lake was 181 m (593 ft) deep with a narrow black ledge around it. Reduced, but still elevated, SO2 emissions were measured Monday (Dec. 28).

Summit Observations: Preliminary analysis of sulfur dioxide emission rates measured Monday (Dec. 28) show that the rates are about 3,300 tonnes/day– slightly lower than the Dec. 27 rate of 5,500 t/d, but still elevated; both values were in the range of emission rates common for the pre-2018 lava lake. Summit tiltmeters continued to record weak inflationary tilt starting on Monday (Dec. 26). Seismicity remained elevated but stable, with steady elevated tremor and a few minor earthquakes.

East Rift Zone Observations: Geodetic monitors indicate that the upper portion of the East Rift Zone (between the summit and Puʻu ʻŌʻō) contracted while the summit deflated. There is no seismic or deformation data to indicate that magma is moving into either of Kīlauea’s rift zones.

Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake Observations: The west vents spattered while erupting lava flowed through crusted-over channels into a lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

The lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu crater has changed little in the past few days and was about 181 m (593 ft) deep as of early this morning (Dec. 30). The lake volume was about 23 million cubic meters (30 million cubic yards or 5.2 billion gallons). The most recent thermal map (Dec. 28) provided the lake dimensions as 770 by 490 m (840 by 535 yds) for a total area of 29 ha (72 acres). The narrow (10-30 m or 11-22 yd) ledge around the lake was about 1-2 m (1-2 yds) above the active lake surface (

Over the past day, the main island of cooler, solidified lava floating in the lava lake drifted slightly to the west in the lake and rotated counter-clockwise. The 10 or so much smaller islands to the east remained stationary. The main island measured about 250 m (820 ft) in length, 135 m (440 ft) in width, and about 3 ha (7 acres) in area based on the Dec. 28 thermal map. Measurements on Dec. 27 show that the island surface was about 6 m (20 ft) above the lake surface.

Webcam views of the lava lake can be found here:

Hazard Analysis: High levels of volcanic gas, rockfalls, explosions, and volcanic glass particles are the primary hazards of concern regarding this new activity at Kīlauea’s summit. Large amounts of volcanic gas—primarily water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2)—are continuously released during eruptions of Kīlauea Volcano. As SO2 is released from the summit during this new eruption, it will react in the atmosphere with oxygen, sunlight, moisture, and other gases and particles, and within hours to days, convert to fine particles. The particles scatter sunlight and cause the visible haze that has been observed downwind of Kīlauea, known as vog (volcanic smog), during previous summit eruptions. Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors, damages agricultural crops and other plants, and affects livestock operations. Rockfalls and minor explosions, such as the ones that occurred during the 2008–2018 lava lake eruption at Kīlauea summit, may occur suddenly and without warning. This underscores the extremely hazardous nature of Kīlauea caldera rim surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu crater, an area that has been closed to the public since late 2007. Pele’s hair and other lightweight volcanic glass fragments from the lava fountains within Halemaʻumaʻu will fall downwind of the fissure vents and lava lake, dusting the ground within a few hundred meters (yards) of the vent. High winds may waft lighter particles to greater distances. Residents are urged to minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation similar to volcanic ash.

Vog information can be found at

Please see this Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Press Release “How to Safely View the New Eruption in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park” at

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) continues to closely monitor Kīlauea’s seismicity, deformation, and gas emissions for any sign of reactivation, and maintains visual surveillance of the summit and the East Rift Zone. HVO will continue to issue daily updates and additional messages as needed.


Kilauea Activity summary also available by phone: (808) 967-8862

Other Hawaiian volcanoes summary also available by phone: (808) 967-8877


Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.