Watch Video: 2018 Lower Puna Eruption, Hawaiʻi

On the Hawaiian island of Hawai’i’s East Rift Zone, a volcanic eruption known as the 2018 lower Puna eruption started on May 3, 2018. Although some volcanologists and USGS scientists have debated whether to categorise it as a new eruption, it is connected to the bigger eruption of Klauea that started on January 3, 1983.

Lava flowing from Fissure 8 to Kapoho bay.

In the Leilani Estates subdivision, lava fountains up to 300 feet (90 m) high, lava flows, and volcanic gas eruptions were preceded by earthquakes and ground deformation that led to road fissures.

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Puna on May 4. By May 27, 2018, 24 fissures in and around the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens communities were erupting lava.

Approximately two thousand residents had to evacuate due to the eruption. One-fourth of the island’s electricity was generated by the Puna Geothermal Venture, which was forced to shut down and later damaged by lava. On May 19, the fissures pushed lava rivers into the ocean, burying a portion of Hawaii Route 137.

Hawaii Route 132 was crossed by lava from a recent northeastern flow on May 29, blocking off access between Kapoho and Phoa. On June 4, the enormous lava flow at Kapoho Bay reached the Pacific Ocean.

The largest natural freshwater lake in Hawaii, Green Lake, was destroyed by lava that entered the Kapoho Crater. The northeastern lava flow quickly advanced on the night of June 4-5 and devastated Vacationland Hawaii’s subdivision.

By June 5, Kapoho Bay had been completely covered by lava, leaving only a point where the bay once stood. Since Mount St. Helens’ eruption in 1980, the volcanic activity in the United States has been the most catastrophic.

By August 7, lava flows had covered 13.7 square miles (35 km2) of ground. The ocean has gained about 875 acres (3.54 km2) of new land. On July 9, 700 homes were confirmed as having been damaged by the eruption.

Recovery activities were predicted to cost more than $800 million (2018 USD). Early August saw virtually full subsidence of the eruption, and on December 5 it was officially proclaimed to be over after three months of quiet.