Ever since Kilauea’s incredible but destructive 2018 eruption ended, the volcano has been largely silent. Activity did return to Halemaumau crater in December of 2020 but slowly fizzled out again six months later. Now, however, Kilauea volcano has officials on edge once again.
For as long as I can remember, Kilauea has been in a constant state of eruption. That is, at least, until its awe-inspiring and catastrophic 2018 eruptive phase. Since then, however, the volcano fell into a relatively silent phase with only a very low-key eruption lasting six months at its summit caldera. That ended in June 2020, and since then, madame Pele has kept to herself.
Kilauea Volcano Has Officials on Edge
Pele’s slumber might be coming to an end soon, or at least that’s a concern right now. In fact, officials at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory raised Kilauea’s alert level from yellow to orange. The orange alert level means that a volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest with increased potential for eruption with an uncertain timeframe. The level also means an eruption is underway with no or minimal ash emissions.
What triggered this change in alert level is a couple of factors, the largest being a massive swarm of small earthquakes, 140 in total, beginning at 4:30 am HST on Tuesday, August 24. However, elevated activity began 12 hours before at around 4:30 pm on Monday. Scientists also noted increasing ground deformation around Kilauea’s summit caldera.
Currently, earthquakes are continuing at a rate of about 10 per hour.
Though the increasing activity is a concern, it doesn’t mean an eruption is imminent. All we know for now is that magma is moving within Kilauea’s system. Given the ground deformation, though, its likely that Kilauea’s shallow magma chamber is likely charging. But, again, it doesn’t mean that an eruption will happen anytime soon. If activity returns, though, hopefully it won’t be as destructive as 2018, but I hope we’ll see more of a sustained eruption as has been the case for most of the past 30+ years. That said, scientists are keeping a close eye on Mauna Loa, which is showing signs of possible system charging as well.