HONOLULU - Kilauea, the youngest and most active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, erupted early on Wednesday morning, officials said, sending fountains of lava spewing skyward before pooling and spreading across its summit.
The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory detected a glow in the web camera of the Kilauea summit and said the volcano began erupting around 4.44am local time (10.44pm Singapore time).
Less than an hour later, the lava created a brilliant black-and-orange web across the crater’s floor. As dawn broke, a livestream showed lava still bubbling but its surface beginning to harden.
“The spreading across the floor of the crater was just totally incandescent,” Dr Ken Hon, the scientist in charge of the observatory, said in an interview.
“The fountaining and everything is pretty incredible.”
In a statement, the observatory said it was elevating Kilauea’s volcano alert level to a watch from a warning, and its aviation colour code to red from orange “as this eruption and associated hazards are evaluated,” adding that “the opening phases of eruptions are dynamic”.
The observatory said that the volcano activity was confined to Halemaʻumaʻu, the volcano’s main crater, and that there were no major threats to infrastructure or human life.
Dr Hon said the only threat was the gas fumes coming off the volcano.
In response, some areas of Hawaii Volcano National Park, which includes Kilauea, that are downwind of the eruption were closed, Dr Hon said.
The eruption was not caught only on web cameras. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite captured the eruption as heat, ash and sulfur dioxide were suddenly released into the atmosphere.
Kilauea first formed underwater roughly 280,000 years ago, according to the National Park Service, and it is considered to be a fairly typical shield volcano, named for its gentle slopes that resemble a shield lying on the ground.
Kilauea is the smaller, younger sibling to Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, which began eruptin...