WATCH: Volcano Erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island

USGS via Storyful

Kilauea volcano, located along the southeastern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii, began erupting Wednesday morning at 4:44 local time.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory cameras detected a glow coming from the volcano in the early morning hours.

“Webcam imagery shows fissures at the base of Halemaʻumaʻu crater generating lava flows on the surface of the crater floor,” USGS said. “The activity is confined to Halemaʻumaʻu and the hazards will be reassessed as the eruption progresses.”

The eruption is in an enclosed area and poses no immediate risks to any human populations at this time.

However, the National Weather Service of Honolulu said the volcanic eruptions could cause “very light ashfall” until at least 6:00 p.m. local time for the Puna, Kau, and South Kona districts on the Big Island.

It is recommended that residents limit exposure to rising volcanic gases by staying indoors or wearing a face mask.

Water is the most abundant element found in volcanic gas, but experts are particularly concerned with the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide.

Since carbon dioxide is heavier than air “it can flow into low lying areas where it can reach much higher concentrations,” according to the USGS.

“Breathing air with more than 3% CO2 can quickly lead to headaches, dizziness, increased heart rate and difficulty breathing,” USGS explained.  “At mixing ratios exceeding about 15%, carbon dioxide quickly causes unconsciousness and death.”

Sulfur dioxide can cause acid rain and air pollution. High concentrations of the gas will cause volcanic smog (VOG) and can cause persistent health problems for a downwind population.

Volcanic eruptions also cause the formation of thin glass fibers known as Pele’s hair, according to the National Park Service. These long strands are formed by gas during a volcanic eruption and can become airborne due to their light weight.

“As tiny pieces of glass, they can become lodged in human skin and much worse, eyes,” the Park Service warned.

Kilauea last erupted on January 5, 2023. That eruption lasted for 61 days.


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