Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupts, lava fountains spew 75 feet into the sky

The alert level has been raised to "warning," and hazards are being constantly assessed.

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Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jackson Ryan
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Kilauea's caldera halema'uma'u

The view of lava within Halemaumau, a crater inside Kilauea's caldera.

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

The youngest and most active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, Kilauea, has begun to erupt. According to the US Geological Survey, the eruption began at around 6:20 p.m. PT (3:20 p.m. local time) when a glow was detected in the Halemaumau crater, which sits within Kilauea. The eruption is currently confined to the crater, within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is being monitored by scientists with the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory. 

The HVO has updated the alert level from "watch" to "warning," signalling that a "hazardous eruption is imminent, underway, or suspected."

Halemaumau is a pit crater, caused by the collapse of the surface, it's located within Kilauea's caldera. The caldera is formed when a volcano erupts, emptying its magma chamber onto the Earth and making the surface unstable. Eventually, all ground falls inward, and you get a huge depression in the surface of the Earth.

For much of 2019, Halemaumau was filled with water -- it had become a lake. But an eruption in December 2020 saw vents feed in lava, boiling off the water and creating a "lava lake" that was around 750 feet deep. It persisted until around May 2021 when the lake crusted over -- but it's active again.

According to the USGS, new fissures have opened up on the surface of the lava lake. The agency states that "high levels of volcanic gas are the primary hazard of concern, as this hazard can have far-reaching effects down-wind."
The USGS and National Parks Service have live views of the pit crater and lava lake if you're keen to see the latest images. You can also stay up to date with the most recent alerts via the USGS updates page.