Hawaii Kilauea Volcano Update, USGS Map: Activity Slows After Months of Eruptions

Activity from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii has finally slowed down after months of high levels of activity rattled the lives of everyone on the island.

While the volcano was at its most active, it was experiencing collapse events at the summit near-daily that sent shakes across the island for weeks on end. Lava also flowed across the region, covering acres of land and destroying homes. But it seems the volcano's activity has actually returned to almost normal levels.

The United States Geological Survey said on Friday that the volcano had been quiet for more than a week. Kilauea's volcano alert level was also downgraded from "warning" to "watch." A warning level means, "Hazardous eruption is imminent, underway, or suspected," according to the USGS.

But when the activity at the volcano slowed down, the alert level was downgraded to a watch, meaning the "volcano is exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption, timeframe uncertain," or that the eruption is already happening but with limited hazards.

As of Tuesday, the volcano was also rated at an orange aviation color code, which means the same thing as a watch rating does, but also that there are no major volcanic-ash emissions that might be impacting flight conditions, according to the USGS.

kilauea summit
Kīlauea Volcano's summit, seen here from the northeast rim of the caldera, has remained quiet, with no collapse events since August 2. USGS

The latest update from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said that the activity at the summit of the volcano was negligible with little deformation or seismicity. Down in the lower East Rift Zone, the LERZ, there was still some lava oozing out, according to the update, but it was a minimal amount and the laze plumes at the ocean entry point were small.

When the ocean entry point was large, the point where the hot lava hit the cool ocean water caused a plume of lava haze that contained hydrochloric acid. That plume could cause respiratory health problems for anyone who got too close.

In addition to the laze plume shrinking, the emissions from the eruptions that were releasing sulfur dioxide into the air from the summit and the LERZ were greatly reduced as well to levels lower than they have been since 2007, said the update.

The most recent map from the USGS of the volcano and its lava's flow field was released on August 14, and because the activity since then has been minimal, no new map was needed. The map shows where the lava reached during the eruptions that began and May and lasted until August that covered acres of land and even added new land to the island.

kilauea map
Map as of 12:00 p.m. HST, August 14. The lull in eruptive activity on Kīlauea's lower East Rift Zone continues. Lava flows have not expanded since August 9. USGS