The Hawaiian island chain are formed by intraplate volcanism, fed by a mantle plume. Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island is a shield volcano with a total height of ca. 5,000 metres, whereof 1,200 m rise above sea level. Eruptions are typically effusive, pouring basaltic lava down the flanks. The surface of the volcanic edifice is covered by very young lava flows, about 90% of which are less than 1,100 years old. In the past two centuries, ~40 eruptions occurred. Beginning in 1983, Kilauea turned into a state of long-term eruption, releasing lava from the East Rift Zone of Pu'u O'o almost without interruption until today. It happened in some cases in the past that lava reached the adjacent Pacific Ocean. On the northeastern flank, new fissures opened on June 27, 2014. A small lava lake formed, and multiple breakouts led to valley-confined lava flows that slowly approach the township of Pahoa. Since then, the activity repeatedly stops and continues, accompanied by a migrating vent position. The lava flows and solidifies at the surface until the next batch of lava breaks out from the interior of the flow.
For thousands of years, lava has traveled down the slopes of Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii. Already a number of times in the past, people's infrastructure ended up to be too close to the volcano. The main road, houses and historical buildings situated along the southern coast of Hawaii were taken by the lava.
Geologists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, which is part of the United States' Geological Survey, keep an eye on the volcano. For the current activity, the alert level was set to “Warning”, indicating the highest threat on a four-tiered scale. The State Department of Natural Land and Resources (DLNR) closed the recreational areas surrounding Kilauea, Kahauale'a Natural Area and Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve, for the public because of the eruption hazard.