Kilauea volcano erupting on Sunday night (NPS/B Hayes
© NPS/B Hayes
Kilauea volcano erupting on Sunday night (NPS/B Hayes
Kilauea volcano has erupted on Hawaii's Big Island, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The eruption began late on Sunday within the Halema'uma'u crater, shortly after 9.30pm local time.

Observers at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) noticed the eruption started within the crater at Kīlauea's summit, according to the USGS, who was in contact with the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake was reported in the area shortly after the eruption began, according to news outlets.

In an update, the USGS said "An eruption has commenced within Kīlauea's summit caldera. The situation is rapidly evolving and HVO will issue another statement when more information is available."

An advisory was issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, warning of fallen ash from the volcano.

Excessive exposure to ash is an eye and respiratory irritant, it said.

The HVO has raised Kīlauea's volcano alert level to "WARNING" level, and the aviation alert level is now colour code "RED", the highest warnings available.

The volcano last erupted in 2018, and according to the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), had shown signs of underground activity in the past weeks and months, with rising uplift at the summit.

Seismic activity had also increased in recent months, according to Kilauea's observers.

"On December 17, 2020, seismometers detected a notable increase in occurrence and duration of long-period seismic signals beneath Kīlauea's summit, which are attributed to magmatic activity," the USGS said.

"Whereas this type of seismicity was observed on average once every few weeks following the 2018 eruption, rates have increased to over a dozen in the past several days."

On Sunday night, the HVO recorded a magnitude 4.4 earthquake on Kīlauea south side at approximately 10:36pm local time, around an hour after the eruption began.

The earthquake was centred about 14 km (8.7 miles) south of Fern Forest, near the Hōlei Pali area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and at a depth of 6 km (4 miles), according to the USGS.

No significant damage to buildings is expected following the earthquake, while a number of smaller earthquakes, or aftershocks, are possible.