Kilauea Eruption // (c) 2011 USGS/Hawaiian Volcano
Kilauea volcano's new eruption site, which suddenly cracked open on March, 5, 2011, spewed lava through fissures on its east rift zone, following the dramatic collapse of Puu Oo crater's floor.
Fiery curtains of orange lava -- some as high as 80 feet -- were captured on video and in photographs, shooting up from fissures that extend more than a mile between Napau and Puu Oo craters. The eruption is in a remote area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is not accessible to the public.
While the park and most of its popular overlooks remain open, HVNP has closed Chain of Craters Road, all east rift and coastal trails and Kulanaokuaiki Campground for public safety. Park rangers are sharing the latest real-time videos, photos and information at Kilauea Visitors Center and Jaggar Museum, much to the delight of visitors to Hawaii's largest
The Federal Aviation Administration reduced the temporary flight restriction (TFR) above the newly active fissure area on March 7, making it easier for flight-seeing passengers to get a bird's-eye view of the molten lava from 1,500 feet above.
Residents in neighboring towns like Mountain View reported seeing a reflective red glow from the lava in the clouds.
"It's definitely an exciting time to visit Hawaii's Big Island and our World Heritage Site. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has always been a must-see experience for visitors," said George Applegate, executive cirector of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. "It's a perfectly safe experience to enjoy our changing volcanic action if visitors heed Park and Civil Defense officials."
Puu Oo is not the only crater on Kilauea to "bottom out" recently. At Halemaumau crater, the previously rising lava lake within the vent suddenly dropped recently. A brilliant red glow is sometimes visible after dark, and rocks continue to cascade down crater walls, creating occasional-to-frequent loud rumblings audible from the overlook at Jaggar Museum.
"Park visitors are very happy," said HVNP superintendent Cindy Orlando. "There's a steady stream of cars coming in, and they absolutely love the real-time action our rangers are sharing with them."
Orlando said that park visitation is up, but that it's difficult to attribute the increase to one specific source, such as the recent volcanic events, an improving economy or the start of the Spring Break season.