A huge, glowing red lava lake appeared as one of the world's most active volcanoes put on a “spectacular” show late on Wednesday.
The pictures showed an eruption within the Halemaumau crater, the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.
The display took place a safe distance from people and structures in a national park on the Big Island, AP cited park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane as saying.
“The lava this morning is all confined within … the summit caldera. So, plenty of room for it still to produce more without threatening any homes or infrastructure,” she said. “That’s the way we like our eruptions here.”
She said park officials were preparing for crowds to arrive as visitors could see the eruption from many vantage points.
“Kilauea overlook was spectacular this morning,” she said. “It was molten red lava. There’s several areas of pretty robust fountaining. It’s just really, really pretty.”
Images showed fissures at the base of the crater generating lava flows, the observatory said.
Before issuing the eruption notice, the observatory said increased earthquake activity and changes in the patterns of ground deformation at the summit started on Tuesday night, indicating the movement of magma in the subsurface.
“We’re not seeing any signs of activity out on the rift zones right now,” said Mike Zoeller, a geologist with the observatory.
“There’s no reason to expect this to transition into a rift eruption that would threaten any communities here on the island with lava flows or anything like that.”
All activity was within a closed area of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The lava lake, covering the crater floor that lies over lava that remained from previous eruptions, measured about 150 hectares in area at about 6am, Mr Zoeller said. It measured about 1,300 metres wide.
Word was getting out and parking lots were starting to fill up at the park, Ms Ferracane said, adding that she expected long queues of people hoping to get into the park by the evening.
She reminded visitors to avoid gases emitted by the eruption, as well as stay out of restricted areas and remain on marked trails for safety reasons.
Residents of Pahala, 30km downwind of Kilauea's summit, reported a very light dusting of gritty fine ash and “Pele's hair” – glass particles that form when lava erupts from a fissure and rapidly cools – named after the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes, the observatory said.
Two small earthquakes jolted Janice Wei awake. As a volunteer photographer for the park who lives in a nearby town, she was able to see fountains she estimated to be 46 metres high at about 4.30am.
She said she saw about 15 fountains, which were dying down by mid-morning.
Fountain heights decreased to a height of four to nine metres in the afternoon, according to the observatory.
The red bursts could be seen on the USGS live-stream Wednesday afternoon.
The volcano’s alert level was raised to warning status and the aviation colour code went to red as scientists evaluated the eruption and associated hazards.
Kilauea erupted from September 2021 until last December. For about two weeks in December, Hawaii’s biggest volcano, Mauna Loa, also was erupting on Hawaii’s Big Island.
After a short pause, Kilauea began erupting again in January. That eruption lasted for 61 days, ending in March.
This eruption is looking very similar, Mr Zoeller said, and “following a very similar playbook to the last three that we’ve seen here since 2020”.
A 2018 Kilauea eruption destroyed more than 700 homes.
Before that eruption, Kilauea had been erupting since 1983, and streams of lava occasionally covered farms and homes.
During that time, the lava sometimes reached the ocean, causing dramatic interactions with the water.