POSTED: 12:38 p.m. HST, Mar 7, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 3:39 p.m. HST, Mar 7, 2011
Glowing, red-orange lava is shooting into the sky, creating fiery rivers from the newest vent at Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.
A new fissure cracked opened Saturday and continued erupting Monday, creating a powerful, spectacular and destructive show by Mother Nature at one of the world's most active volcanoes. Propelled by jets of gas, lava was seen reaching as high as 100 feet high Sunday.
"Fissure eruptions by their nature are exciting because you see lava spattering from this ground crack reaching impressive heights," volcanologist Janet Babb said. "It's not something we see every day, so it does generate a lot of excitement."
Scientists observed "vigorous spattering" from the west end of the fissure Monday..
Eighteen small earthquakes were recorded in the 24-hour period until about 9 a.m. today. Ten were clustered in the east rift zone near the fissure eruption, five were beneath the Kilauea summit and three were on south flank faults.
Kilauea, which means "spewing" or "much spreading," in Hawaiian, has been in constant eruption since Jan. 3, 1983.
The newest eruption was spotted by a geologist during a flyover shortly after the floor at the Pu'u 'O'o crater collapsed Saturday afternoon.
The observatory has set up a web camera where people can view the eruption online. The site is in a remote location of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the middle east rift zone between Puu Oo and Napau crater. The last fissure eruption in the area was in 1997.
The U.S. Geological Survey has issued a volcano warning alert, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent, under way or suspected in the remote, barren area.
Scientists said areas near the vent could erupt or collapse without warning, posing a threat to visitors or hikers to the area. Rocks and lava could be ejected several hundred yards, and ash and potentially lethal concentrations of sulfur dioxide gas could travel about a half-mile downwind.
Because of the latest activity, with 2,000-degree lava creating intense heat and torching small trees, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has closed Chain of Craters Road and all east rift zone and coastal trails. Kulanaokuaiki campground was also closed until further notice.
The slopes of Puu Oo, all ledges, benches and beaches formed at active lava entry points on the coast, as well as specific active lava areas as posted, are closed to visitors. There were also flight restrictions in the area.
No homes or structures were threatened.
Puu 0o crater continues to deflate, according to instruments. There was a visible glow deep within the Thanksgiving Eve breakout vent, but no other visible activity at Puu Oo, scientists said.
Measurements taken yesterday show the Puu Oo crater floor dropped 377 feet when the crater collapsed Saturday.
At the summit, lava levels remained deep within the vent on the east wall of Halemaumau Crater.
>> New eruption web cam: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/cams/NCcam/
>> Puu Oo web cam: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/cams/POcam/