Toxic gas levels continue to rise at Kilauea volcano

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is continuing to monitor elevated levels of sulfur dioxide gas emissions from the summit of Kilauea volcano.

Trade winds are blowing most of the gas fumes downwind of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, keeping levels within safe limits in the areas that remain open. However, elevated gas emissions near the crater, which reached 2,500 metric tons (more than 10 times the average last year), have forced the closure of a larger section of Crater Rim Drive and trails in the summit area "in the interest of visitor safety," the HVO said.

Officials with the National Park Service said the following closures will remain in effect until further notice:
Crater Rim Drive "between Kilauea Military Camp south/southeast to Chain of Craters Road."
Crater Rim Trail "from Kilauea Military Camp south/southeast to Chain of Craters Road."
All trails leading to Halemauma' crater, "including those from Byron Ledge, 'Iliahi (Sandalwood) Trail, and Kau Desert Trail."

Despite the closures, most of the park and its facilities remain open, "including Kilauea Visitor Center, Volcano House hotel, Kilauea Military Camp, Volcano Art Center Gallery, Thurston Lava Tube, Devastation Trail, Kilauea Iki Trail, Sulphur Bank Trail, Chain of Craters Road, Kulanaokuaiki Campground, and all backcountry campsites."

Scientists have been monitoring the gas emissions since around March 16. What began as new gas vent in the Halemaumau Crater at Kilauea's summit progressed to an explosion that scattered boulders and rock debris across 75 acres of the park on March 19 and further developed into new lava flows from the area around March 24.

According to the HVO, "the possibility of future small explosions or eruption of lava from Halemaumau Crater cannot be ruled out."


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