Kīlauea Summit Eruption - December 2020

Breaking news - on 20 December 2020 a new eruption commenced at the Kīlauea summit. The water lake has boiled away and at least one fissure is active in the caldera, erupting lava. Volcanic gases are continuously released during eruptions of Kīlauea volcano, resulting in the potential for vog, downwind. Ashfall presently represents a minor hazard, but visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park should be aware that, if trade winds are absent, ashfall and elevated concentrations of SO2, at publically accessible areas of the summit, are possible. Follow eruption updates at https://www.usgs.gov/volcano/volcano-updates or on social media https://www.usgs.gov/volcano/social-media. Please also see the State of Hawaii Department of Health's news release.


The following information has not been updated since 2018. New information will be posted as details of the 2020 eruption emerge.

Kīlauea Volcano’s summit vent within Halema'uma'u sporadically generates volcanic ash as the vent walls collapse. Rockfalls from the vent walls have produced numerous ash plumes since 2008 (when the vent first opened). The areas directly surrounding Kīlauea Volcano’s summit are most likely to be affected by these ash emissions.

Driving in ash: Driving conditions may be dangerous so if you are driving pull off the road and wait until visibility improves. Ash can also make roads slippery so reduce your speed.

Reduce your exposure:

  • Shelter indoors: Inhalation of volcanic ash can be a nuisance and cause discomfort, and may have more serious health consequences for some people.The most effective way to reduce exposure, especially for people with particular susceptibilities (e.g., children and infants, older people and those with existing respiratory (lung) or cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) disease) is to shelter somewhere which is not ashy, ideally inside a building where you can stay indoors for some time, if necessary. Where possible, close doors and windows and seal large gaps.
  • Respiratory protection: If you cannot remove yourself from the ash, you may wish to use some sort of respiratory protection (e.g., facemask), or may be advised to do so by local agencies. The most effective respiratory protection for adults is to wear a well-fitting, industry-certified particle facemask such as an N95 mask. Masks are not usually designed to fit children’s faces. Exposure for children and infants should be reduced by staying in a non-ashy (indoor) environment whenever possible. Please see document: How to fit a facemask, and protect yourself from ash, from the County of Hawai'i.
  • Remember your pets: Pets and companion animals can also be affected by volcanic ash. Keep your animals inside during ashfall events and clean-up activities. If this is not possible, relocate pets to a garage, carport, or under some type of cover to protect them from falling ash.

Seek advice from a health professional: If you are concerned about your health, take advice from a health professional. See http://www.ivhhn.org/ash-protection for further information on how to protect yourself from breathing ash.

Useful resources:

Updated: 29 August 2018