The Hawaiian volcano Kilauea celebrates thirty years of continuous activity this year. One Kilauea hotspot, the Halema‘uma‘u crater, will mark its fifth anniversary of constant eruption on March 19. Happy burst-day!
The U.S. Geological Survey will commemorate Halema‘uma‘u’s big day with special presentations on the observation deck overlooking the fuming lava pit in the crater. Although the lava cannot be safely viewed from the observation deck, at night a glow emanates from the hellish pit, illuminating the plume of foul-smelling smoke rising from the Earth’s depths.
“Where else in the world can you park your car, and walk just a few feet to behold the spectacle of one of the world’s most active volcanoes?” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando in a press release.
Halema‘uma‘u exploded and opened a 115-foot wide hole on the volcano’s summit at 2:58 a.m. on March 19, 2008. The eruption revealed a roiling lake of lava within the volcano.
The Halema‘uma‘u crater belches out an average 800-1,200 tonnes of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas everyday. That’s a decline from when the crater started in 2008, but still more than enough to create hazardous conditions around the volcano’s rim and cause air pollution downwind.
Gas emissions may have dropped off since 2008, but the vent itself has increased to approximately 520 feet by 700 feet, equivalent to the area of 21 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Within the crater, a churning lake of fiery foam rises and falls with changes in subsurface magma pressure. In December 2012, the lave came within 72 feet of overflowing the rim.
IMAGE: Kīlauea Volcano’s summit vent within Halema‘uma‘u Crater (Tim Orr , USGS)