Photo and Video Chronology – Kīlauea – January 1, 2021

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The west vent in Halema‘uma‘u remains active; Kīlauea's summit eruption continues, Island of Hawai‘i. Gas emissions and seismic activity at the summit remain elevated. HVO field crews—equipped specialized safety gear and PPE—monitor the current eruption from within the closed area of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park with NPS permission.

HVO scientists collect detailed data to assess hazards and understand how the eruption is evolving at Kīlauea's summit, all of which are shared with the National Park Service and emergency managers. Access to this hazardous area is by permission from, and in coordination with, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

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The KW webcam has documented the activity in Halema‘uma‘u crater wall at Kīlauea's summit. This photo comparison shows that activity has not changed significantly over the past several days. The first image (left) was taken on December 27, 2020, just after 6:30 a.m. HST, and the second image (right) was taken on January 1, 2021, just after 6:30 a.m. HST. The photos show that the locus of activity, the west vent in the wall of Halema‘uma‘u, has not changed. The west vent remains active; lava continues to erupt from it into the lava lake, the level of which has not changed significantly over the past several days. You can view live KW webcam images here. USGS photo.

Video Transcript

Lava Returns to Halema'uma'u, as captured in this timelapse from the K2cam, located at the HVO Observation Tower (Kīlauea Volcano). Timelapse is from December 20, 2020, 5:50 a.m. to December 21, 2020, 11:57 p.m. The K2cam is a research camera mounted in the observation tower at the previous Hawaiian Volcano Observatory building on the rim of Kīlauea caldera within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The camera is looking SSE towards the southern wall of the 2018 collapsed Halema'uma'u, 1.9 km (1.2 miles) from the webcam. On December 20, 2020, the eruption was preceded by an earthquake swarm beneath the summit, around 8:30 p.m. HST. This video shows the bright glow and vigorous steam plume, generated by the boiling water lake in Halema'uma'u, that was observed on HVO webcams beginning approximately 9:30 p.m. HST on December 20. HVO scientists responded immediately and visually confirmed from the field that lava was visible within Halema'uma'u. The steam plume dissipated shortly thereafter. Several fissures opened in the north and northwest walls of Halema'uma'u. As streams of lava fed by fountaining vents in the crater walls filled the space where the water once pooled, the summit water lake was replaced by a lava lake.

(Public domain.)

The eruption at Kīlauea's summit within Halema‘uma‘u crater continues with no significant changes over the past day.

The eruption at Kīlauea's summit within Halema‘uma‘u crater continues with no significant changes over the past day. High winds overnight and this morning in the summit region have made it difficult for geologists to make observations and measurements of the lava lake but HVO scientists continue to monitor webcams and data streams for any major changes in eruptive activity. Two USGS thermal images from the F1cam thermal webcam show minimal changes over the past day. The left image (from December 31, 2020 at 12:22 p.m. HST) and right image (from January 1, 2021 at 1:02 p.m. HST) show that the west vents (lower center) remain active and are feeing the lava lake from a channel that crusted over several days ago. The main island in the lava lake has drifted to the west and rotated slightly.

(Public domain.)

The ongoing eruption within Halema‘uma‘u crater continues at the western vents

The ongoing eruption within Halema‘uma‘u crater continues at the western vents, where no significant changes have been observed in the past several days. Weak bursts of spatter are occasionally visible from the vents, and the channel feeding the lava lake remains crusted over. This afternoon, January 1, 2021, HVO field crews recorded a lava lake depth of 189 m (620 ft) at about 3:30 p.m. USGS photo taken by B. Carr.

(Public domain.)

HVO scientists deployed temporary seismic stations around Kīlauea's summit today.

HVO scientists deployed temporary seismic stations around Kīlauea's summit today. The additional data being collected will help provide insights into the magma storage and migration during the ongoing summit eruption. This could help to clarify the extent of the changes which occurred to Kīlauea volcano’s magmatic plumbing system in 2018. In coordination with Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, HVO receives permits prior to the deployment of monitoring equipment. USGS photo taken by J. Chang.

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of lava lake

The western portion of the lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u, Kīlauea Volcano summit. The island has migrated closer to the west vent area, which remains active. USGS photo by M. Patrick. 

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of volcanic vent

Telephoto view of the west vent area in Halema‘uma‘u, Kīlauea Volcano. The west vents are in the northwestern wall of Halema‘uma‘u crater; intermittent spattering at the vents has constructed a perched pointed cone on the crater wall. USGS photo by M. Patrick. 

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of volcanic vent

Another telephoto view of the west vent area in Halema‘uma‘u, Kīlauea Volcano. The west vents are in the northwestern wall of Halema‘uma‘u crater; intermittent spattering at the vents has constructed a perched pointed cone on the crater wall. USGS photo by M. Patrick. 

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of lava lake crust

Kīlauea's summit lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu continues to re-surface. This process is called crustal foundering, in which pieces of solidified lava crust on the surface of the lava lake break and sink back into the liquid portion. USGS photo by M. Patrick. 

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of lava lake crust

Kīlauea's summit lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu is continually re-surfacing. Like the 2008-2018 lava lake, the current lava lake is exhibiting crustal foundering, when fragments of solidified lava crust on the surface break and sink back into the liquid portion.  USGS photo by M. Patrick. 

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of lava lake margin

The margins of the lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u are showing a subtle levee around the perimeter. The levees grow from repeated small overflows, and the rafting and piling of pieces of surface crust that fuse together into a barrier that impounds the lake. This results in a "perched" lava lake, and this geometry has been common for lava lakes at Kīlauea's summit and rift zones. For example, see this photo of a perched lava pond within Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater in 2011. USGS photo by M. Patrick

(Public domain.)

Color photograph of lava lake surface

Kīlauea eruption in Halema‘uma‘u on Jan. 1, 2021. The channel-like feature remains visible on the lava lake surface within Halemaʻumaʻu crater at Kīlauea Volcano's summit. This feature originates from the influx of lava from the western fissure. USGS photo by M. Patrick. 

(Public domain.)