Does ash ever erupt from Kīlauea Volcano?

Kīlauea Volcano is renowned for its relatively benign eruptions of fluid lava flows. Therefore, many people were surprised by the small explosions that occurred in Halema`uma`u Crater in 2008 and 2018, and even more surprised to learn that volcanic ash was being erupted from a new gas vent. However, ash emissions from Halema`uma`u Crater are part of the volcano's legacy.

Kīlauea's summit has erupted explosively throughout the history of the volcano, producing ash deposits that date back at least 30,000 years—and probably older.

In 1790, at least 80 people were killed in the Ka`ū Desert by searing hot gas and ash produced by a devastating explosion. In 1924, a series of steam explosions in Halema`uma`u Crater blasted columns of volcanic ash and dust as high as two miles (3 km) into the air. These plumes were blown downwind beyond the community of Pahala, 32 km (20 miles) away, where ash fallout turned day into night. Muddy ash also fell in lower Puna, making railroad tracks so slippery that trains couldn't travel in Maku`u. One person was killed near Halema`uma`u when he ventured too close to the vent and was hit by falling rocks.

On May 17 in 2018, an explosive eruption at the summit of Kilauea produced a volcanic cloud that reached as high as 30,000 feet above sea level.

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Date published: May 6, 2019

The National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) will help USGS better monitor nation’s most dangerous volcanoes

In September 2004, USGS scientists detected sudden, but unmistakable, signs that Mount St. Helens was waking up. Volcano monitors had picked up the occurrence of hundreds of small earthquakes and other signals that the volcano’s crater floor had begun to rise. Within a week, several eruptions blasted clouds of ash into the atmosphere, and soon after, a new lava dome emerged in the crater.

Date published: June 21, 2018

Kīlauea Volcano Erupts

Today's update for June 21st, 2018 will be the last of the daily updates on this USGS feature story.  We encourage you to keep checking the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Kīlauea status website for daily activity updates. You can also visit the USGS Facebook page and the USGS Twitter feed as updates become available. For press inquiries, please email

Date published: December 29, 2011

A New View of KIlauea Volcano’s Explosive Past

HAWAII NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii — Recent research showing that Kilauea Volcano has experienced long periods of explosive eruptions during the past 2,500 years will be the topic of a presentation at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Thursday, January 5. 

Date published: March 27, 2008

Dramatic Developments at Kilauea Volcano: Scientists Work to Keep Public Safe and Informed

Explosive eruptions and noxious gas emissions at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii this week have prompted scientists to work around the clock to understand what will happen next and how to keep the public out of harm's way.

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August 30, 2018

PubTalk 8/2018 — What on Earth is going on at Kilauea Volcano?

Title: What on Earth is going on at Kilauea Volcano?

  • First significant summit explosions in nearly a century
  • Largest summit collapse volume since at least 1800
  • Voluminous fissure eruptions feeding channelized lava flow
  • Unparalleled new opportunities for understanding the volcanic system
Another explosion at the summit of Kīlauea...
June 7, 2018

Another explosion at the summit of Kīlauea

On June 6, at 4:07 p.m. HST, an explosion within Halema‘uma‘u sent an ash and gas plume to a height of about 10,000 feet above sea level. The explosion released energy equivalent to that of a magnitude-5.6 earthquake; a result of the explosion-related energy release was ground shaking felt throughout the summit area. This plume is typical of those produced by the larger

Ash blanketing a desert landscape
May 15, 2018

Kīlauea Volcano - Ash Blanketing Kau Desert

At 1:38 p.m. HST. A telephoto photo from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory looking toward the southwest shows gray ash blanketing the Kau Desert landscape.

Ash plume rising from a crater
May 15, 2018

Kīlauea Volcano - Ash Plume Rising from Overlook Crater

At 11:05 a.m. HST. Photograph from the Jaggar Museum, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, captures an ash plume rising from the Overlook crater. Ash falling from the plume can be seen just to the right side (and below) the plume.

A dark ash plume rising from a crater
May 15, 2018

Kīlauea Volcano - Dark Ash Plume Rising from Overlook Crater

At 1:38 p.m. HST, another dark ash plume rose from the Overlook crater. During a flight earlier today by the Civil Air Patrol, the height of the ash plumes near the crater rose to more than 3 km (9,800 ft) above sea level, and downwind the plumes continued to rise to about 3.5 km (11,500 ft) above sea level.

Ash plume at KILAUA summit nearly continuous this morning...
May 15, 2018

Ash plume at KILAUA summit nearly continuous this morning

Activity at Halema‘uma‘u crater increased this morning to include the nearly continuous emission of ash with intermittent stronger pulses that form occasional higher plumes 1-2 kilometers (3,000 to 6,000 feet) above the ground. This photo shows the ash plume at about 9 a.m. HST. Tradewinds this morning are blowing the ash generally to the southwest toward the Ka`u Desert.

White gas plume rising straight up from Kilauea Volcano summit with distant, bright, full moon.
August 16, 2016

Gas plume from Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, Kilauea Volcano

With stagnant winds present, the plume from Halema`uma`u Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano, stands straight up, showing off the distant, but bright, full moon.

Image: Footprints in Ash from 1790 Kilauea Volcano Eruption
March 14, 2016

Footprints in Ash from 1790 Kilauea Volcano Eruption

Footprints made in muddy ash during Kilauea's 1790 eruption are reminders that people experienced the largest explosive eruption in Hawai‘i in 1,000 years. More than 80, and possibly several hundred, people were killed by the eruption soon after the footprints were made.

December 8, 2011

PubTalk 12/2011 — Tracking Ongoing Kilauea Eruptions

--fissures...fountains...and flows

by Matthew Patrick, USGS, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory


  • Spectacular Kilauea eruptions have produced a summit lava lake, roiling for several years, and a flank eruption recently sending lava flows downslope to threaten residential areas
  • How do USGS scientists monitor and track
Image: Ash Cloud Rising From Pu'u 'O 'o as Crater Floor Collapses
March 5, 2011

Ash Cloud Rising From Pu'u 'O 'o as Crater Floor Collapses

Incandescent rubble rolling and sliding down the scarp on the edge of the collapsing crater in Pu'u 'O 'o. A remnant of the pre-collapse crater floor can be seen in the background below the crater's south wall. The east rim of Pu'u 'O 'o is in the foreground.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: Ash Cloud Rising From Pu'u 'O 'o as Crater Floor Collapses
March 5, 2011

Ash Cloud Rising From Pu'u 'O 'o as Crater Floor Collapses

Ash cloud rising from Pu'u 'O 'o as crater floor collapses due to magma withdrawal. Incandescent rubble can be seen crumbling and rolling down the scarp. The east rim of Pu'u 'O 'o is in the foreground.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: Explosive Kilauea Boulder
December 8, 2009

Explosive Kilauea Boulder

This large rock at the Kīlauea Overlook in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park was ejected ballistically in 1790, or soon thereafter, from Kilauea Volcano's summit caldera when it was more than 600 meters (2000 feet) deep.