Hawaiian Volcano ​Kilauea Taking a Break From Erupting, But it Might Not Be All Done

Scientists aren't sure if the pause is permanent. But there's definitely a slowdown in lava.

kileua volcano photography
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Kīlauea, the Hawaiian volcano that has been erupting since May, appears to have gone on a hiatus of sorts. Scientists monitoring the active volcano aren't ready to say the lava has stopped flowing, but there is an undeniable slowdown.

You can think of the volcano in three sections: the summit, middle east rift zone (MERZ), and lower east rift zone (LERZ). Activity has lessened on all three fronts. The Kīlauea summit has remained quiet since August 2, showing "a significant departure from the pattern of seismicity" that has been seen from the volcano during its eruption.

At the MERZ, levels of sulfuric dioxide, SO2, have lowered. There's been no active lava either. And at the LERZ, lava output remains low. There have been a "diminishing number of small active ooze outs," says the USGS, and lava haze plumes, known as laze plumes, have significantly diminished. There's still active lava, but it's not on the move.

What this means is hard to say. "It is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely," says the USGS in a . "A return to high levels of lava discharge or new outbreaks in the area of active fissures could occur at any time."

But any break will be welcomed by Hawaiians. The volcano has shattered a man's leg with a "lava bomb," injured 13 on a touring boat, and burned through beaches.

The eruption has also created a new lava island off the Hawaiian coast, offering a small hint into how crucial it was to the formation of the Hawaiian islands. Kilauea was one of volcanoes making up what's known as "the Hawaiian hotspot." Originally the hotspot included more than 100 volcanoes, but generations of erosion from the sea have left six standing. Two are dormant, and four, including Kīlauea, are active.


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