Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists lowered the advisory levels for Kilauea volcano this morning, a day after the summit eruption resumed following a three-month pause.
”HVO is lowering Kilauea’s volcano alert level from warning to watch because the initial high effusion rates have declined, and no infrastructure is threatened,” scientists said in a news release today. “Associated hazards are confined to the closed area established by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.”
In addition, HVO also lowered Kilauea’s aviation advisory code from red to orange “because there is currently no threat of significant volcanic ash emission into the atmosphere outside of the hazardous closed area within” the park.
”The eruption plume continues to rise to the base of the inversion level at about 8,000-10,000 feet above sea level as it did yesterday,” officials said in the advisory. “The plume is largely composed of sulfur dioxide gas and minor volcanic particles, but in lower concentrations due to the drop in effusion rate.”
A wind vortex or whirlwind appeared above the eruption site. Officials said the vortex is formed due to the extreme heat.
The eruption began at 4:44 a.m. Wednesday within Halemaumau crater and is attracting thousands of sight-seers to the park on the southeast side of the Big Island.
Scientists said today that the summit eruption is expected to continue and remain confined to crater. “HVO does not see any indication of activity migrating elsewhere on Kilauea volcano and expects the eruption to remain confined to the summit region,” they said.
Word of Kilauea’s lava fountains spread quickly, bringing crowds to the national park. “Expect major delays and limited parking due to high visitation,” said a warning on the park’s website today.
Several thousand viewers were watching the U.S. Geological Survey’s livestream showing red pockets of moving lava this morning.
“We were on social media, and we saw that it was actually going off while we’re here, so we made the drive from the Kona side” Andrew Choi, visiting with his family from Orange County, California, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “This feels so ridiculously lucky. We’ve never seen anything like this.”
Park officials suggested visiting at less-crowded times before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.