Lava lake on Hawaii's volcano overflows in spectacular show

Lava Lake on Hawaii's Volcano Overflows
Lava Lake on Hawaii's Volcano Overflows

HONOLULU (AP) -- A lake of lava on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has been rising over the past week and, at times, overflowing in a spectacular show.

Video posted online by visitors shows lava splashing over the side of the vent rim.

Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said Thursday that this is the first time lava from this vent has come into view from a public platform within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii's Big Island.

"It's always been out of view for visitors who were in the park public viewing areas," she said.

But this past week, because of lava is rising inside the volcano, the lava lake rose high enough that it was visible, she said.

The last time molten lava was visible in the crater was in 1982 when a fissure erupted. The last time there was a lake was in 1974.

The vent within Halemaumau Crater opened in March, 2008 and has been rising and falling since. Even at its highest level in October 2012, the lake was too low for people to see. During the day people could view the gas rising from the lake, and at night people could see the orange glow from the lava.

From the early 1800s up until 1924, there was a continuous lake of lava at Kilauea summit within Halemaumau. At that time, the crater was about half the diameter of what it is now, she said.

In 1924 there was a huge eruption inside the volcano that doubled the size of the crater.

Since 1924, lava lakes have been present at different times. In 1967 and 1968 the entire crater was filled with molten lava, she said. You can still see a "bathtub ring" on the walls of the crater where the lava had risen to at that time.

As of Thursday morning, the lava was beginning to recede slightly, part of its natural ebb and flow.

Earlier this week, officials at the park released a statement asking visitors to be prepared for large crowds.

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