The "normal" activity of Kilauea Volcano for the past several years -- eruption of lava from the Pu`u `O`o vent located about 20 km from the summit of the volcano --
changed abruptly in the early morning hours of Father's Day, June 17. A swarm of small earthquakes began in the upper east rift zone of the volcano, and the summit area of Kilauea began to deflate rapidly. This was a clear indication that magma was moving from the summit magma reservoir and into the rift zone.
Since June 17, scientists have recorded many changes at Kilauea that have led to restricted access to parts of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The rift zone widened by at least a meter and many fresh ground cracks formed as magma intruded into rift zone.
A new short-lived eruption of lava about 6 km west of Pu`u `O`o spread small flows in pristine rainforest on the slopes of Kane Nui o Hamo shield. This eruption occurred near the area of most intense ground cracking and where earthquakes were located on the afternoon of June 18.
The crater floor and parts of the west flank of Pu`u `O`o vent collapsed more than 20 m in a piecemeal fashion. Little or no lava was entering the well-established lava tube system on June 18, 19, and 20. Increased fume in the crater is making detailed observations of the collapse more difficult.
Scientists measured extremely high concentrations of sulfur dioxide gas at the volcano's summit in a broad area adjacent to Halema`uma`u Crater. Concentrations are more than 10 times higher the concentration used to close visitor centers in the park and advise visitors to relocate to areas with cleaner air.
More changes will undoubtedly unfold in the coming days as Kilauea adjusts to the underground movement of magma that just occurred. Scientists of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continue to monitor the activity closely.
Learn more about Kilauea's east rift zone: