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Pele's Return to Kīlauea

Posted on Dec. 21, 2020

An eruption in Halema‘uma‘u Crater began on December 20, 2020

The new 2020 eruption of Kīlauea volcano in Hawai‘i is just a fraction of the size of the events in 2018. In addition, the focus has changed. In 2018, lava discharge was centered in Puna district, 25 miles from the summit of the volcano. Today the molten rock is fountaining from directly beneath the summit, on the wall of the huge crater that formed in 2018. Fountains throw incandescent particles up to 150’ in the air and they fall and merge to form lava that drains to the floor of the crater. Initially, they encountered a small water lake which boiled away leaving the floor of the crater occupied by a growing pond of lava. The crater is an enormous safety valve, trapping the new lava well away from roads and structures. This means that visitors can obtain spectacular views of the eruption, as many did last night.

Those with respiratory ailments are advised to remain indoors and avoid the area, monitor the alerts and warnings from HVO and the County of Hawai’i emergency management agency ( and

It is too soon to know how long the 2020 eruption will last or whether it will transform into a more powerful, dangerous event but the return of a lava lake to Halema‘uma‘u is being welcomed by volcanologists and observers of nature everywhere.

USGS Volcanoes post on Twitter: Lava cascades from a vent in the wall of #Halemaʻumaʻu around midnight on Dec 20. The water lake has boiled away and 3 vents are generating lava flows that are contributing to a growing lava lake.

This story was reported by Dr. Bruce Houghton, the Gordon A. Macdonald Professor of Volcanology, Department of Earth Sciences, and Science Director of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, 1680 East-West Road, POST 617C, , Honolulu, HI 96822, phone: (808) 220 9273, fax: (808) 956 5512.