Hawaii Kilauea Volcano Update: Lava Eruptions at Fissure 8 May Be Slowing Down

After months of eruptions that have forced evacuations, destroyed property and land and created new landscapes, lava output from Fissure 8 at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano was slowing down as of Sunday.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said that the helicopter overflight conducted Sunday morning confirmed a “significant reduction” in lava output from Fissure 8. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists noticed low levels of fountaining, or lava being sprayed into the air, as well as largely crusted lava in the spillway and channel system downstream.

While the decreasing lava output is welcome news, the USGS said it’s common for eruptions to grow stronger and weaker or to even pause completely. A pause in eruptions doesn’t mean the danger is over, however, because new outbreaks can occur at any time.

“The significance of this change is not yet clear, and hazardous conditions remain in the area,” the USGS announcement cautioned. “Residents should remain informed and heed Hawaii County Civil Defense messages and warnings.”

The area remained under an orange aviation code, meaning that the heightened unrest at the volcano is causing an increased likelihood of an eruption occurring. News of the reduction in lava eruptions at Fissure 8 comes as the summit continues to remain relatively quiet, according to the USGS.

As Hawaii deals with the repercussions of monthslong eruptions, the island faces another possible natural disaster: Hurricane Hector. Classified by the National Hurricane Center as a Category 4 storm, it’s forecasted to come within 60 nautical miles of the island on Wednesday. Shifts in the storm’s path could mean a direct hit on the island, though the forecast now predicts it will come in close proximity, causing tropical winds and dangerous riptides.

“Hector is our first hurricane this year. We want to remind the public we are in the middle of the hurricane season, and we urge people to take the weekend to prepare their homes and families for impacts that could be felt statewide,” Tom Travis, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said in a press release on August 3.

Kilauea lava eruption may be slowing down fissure 8 A lava lake forms May 23 in the Leilani Estates subdivision, amid eruptions from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. On Sunday, geologists confirmed a "significant reduction" in lava output from Kilauea's Fissure 8. RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images

This isn’t the first time that a storm has passed over Kilauea. Hawaii experienced an increase in lighting when Tropical Storm Flossie interacted with particles and gases from the volcano in 2013, according to the Weather Channel. It’s not uncommon for volcanoes and hurricanes to coexist, and the “Ring of Fire,” a tectonically active area in the western Pacific, is known for being home to earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanoes. However, scientists can't say with full certainty what will occur when a storm interacts with an active volcano. 

On August 1, ahead of the news of the hurricane, Hawaii residents experienced a brush fire that burned 3,000 acres, adding smoke to the already harmful air conditions caused by the ash and gases from the volcano’s eruptions.

Kilauea began erupting in May. Since its initial eruption, it has destroyed homes and a school and added almost 700 acres of land to what used to be the edge of the island. The lava has also flowed into the homes of local wildlife, causing concern that it will take years before the area fully recuperates from the devastation.