Lava fountains from Fissure 8 of Hawaii’s Volcano Kilauea reached heights of 174 feet on Wednesday, giving the fissure the extra boost to ooze lava into a channel at Kapoho and reach the ocean. While the collision of lava and water has catalyzed stunning laze plumes, this new entry point is one of the most hazardous yet.

Since Wednesday, Fissure 8’s latest lava fountain has spilled into a well-established channel at Kapoho and is beginning to overflow some of the channel levees. The US Geological Survey (USGS) responded on Thursday with a statement marking the ocean entry as a hazardous area.

Plumes from lava's entry into the ocean - Kilauea Volcano
Plumes from lava's entry into the ocean

“Venturing too close to an ocean entry on land or the ocean exposes you to flying debris from sudden explosive interaction between lava and water,” the statement warns. Kilauea has already launched a lot of natural phenomena into the air, from boulders the size of refrigerators to shards of glass. Most recently, residents have been able to catch rare glimpses of volcanic tornados and have been caught in rainstorms of green gems.

Pele’s hair and other lightweight volcanic glass fragments are continuing to make their appearances around the lava fountain at Fissure 8, but those aren’t the only hazardous aspects of the lava’s recent entry point to the sea. The lava delta is built on sand and other lava fragments, making it extremely unstable. This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf, causing the new land that’s forming to become unsupported and slide into the ocean.

Gas emissions from Fissure 8 have increased over the past two weeks and additional ground cracking and lava outbreaks are possible. USGS is advising that residents downslope of the region of fissures should heed all Hawaii County Civil Defense messages and warnings about evacuation.

And that billowing plume, as ethereal as it might look on film, is a corrosive seawater plume laden with hydrochloric acid and fine volcanic particles. So it’s best to view from afar.

Photos via USGS