HONOLULU – Lava started oozing from a new rift near a 600-foot fissure in Mount Kilauea in Hawaii Wednesday, a day after hundreds of earthquakes shook the upper East Rift Zone, shaking the island late Monday and early Tuesday.
The earthquakes in Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, sparked a new episode to the 24-year-long eruption about 8 miles southwest of Kilauea's summit, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported.
Lava was moving slowly and the fissure was releasing heavy smoke and steam, a field team on the scene reported. About four hours later, the lava had ceased movement and the smoke had dissipated. The earthquakes were a result of magma buildup, officials said.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was evacuated Sunday when earthquakes perpetuated for hours. A trail in the park that leads to Pu’u ‘O’o was also closed late Tuesday afternoon after air-quality testing showed sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano were "off the chart," a park ranger told the Honolulu Advertiser.
Despite close-offs, the rangers have still seen visitors in the area.
"Pu'u 'O'o is so unstable, Pu'u 'O'o remains closed, it always has been closed, we've taken the advice of the scientists who said Pu'u 'O'o is unstable,” Park Ranger Mardie Lane told the newspaper. “It's steaming, it's hot, it's gassy, it's collapsing in upon itself, and during these seismic swarms that began Sunday, even more so, the collapses have been significant."
Scientists believe that the eruptions have had significant effects on the topography of the area, as Tuesday’s eruption caused the island’s southeast coastline to move at least an inch seaward, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.
Steve Brantley of the Observatory said in a press release that the movement of lava was causing the crater floor to collapse, as it has dropped 65 feet.
Scientists report that the magma seems to be moving toward the East Rift Zone, and as a result, this area is still volatile
Although the Kilauea summit seemed to be deflating with the sequence of earthquakes that began Sunday, scientists reported that the summit was inflating again late Tuesday and that the next point of eruption cannot be specifically predicted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.