Just after midnight on January 3, 1983, a small fissure opened within Napau Crater on Kilauea Volcano, spewing red-hot lava. Within hours, additional fissures stretched 6 kilometers (4 miles) down the volcano’s East Rift Zone.Thirty years later, the Pu’u ’O’o-Kupaianaha eruption continues, making it the longest eruption at Kilauea in recorded history.
Since the eruption began in 1983, lava has poured almost continuously from a cluster of vents on the eastern flank. Through 2011, fresh lava had covered 124.6 square kilometers (48.1 square miles) of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Activity has occurred during 60 distinct events, separated by shifts in the location or behavior of erupting lava. Most of these events have been centered at Pu’u ’O’o, a volcanic cone built from successive lava fountains and flows. The 60th eruptive episode began in March 2011 and was ongoing through January 4, 2012. It consists of a lava pond within Pu’u ’O’o, and a steady effusion of lava that stretches 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the Pacific Ocean.