The ash isn't toxic but it can irritate the eyes, the nose and airways.
For almost three weeks, images of volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big Island have been mostly focused on the East Rift Zone on Kilauea's slopes, where fissure upon fissure has opened up in the earth, spewing forth red-orange lava and sending thousands of residents fleeing from their homes.
The plume also signifies that residents of the Big Island "need to expect that it will become more explosive", Rick Hazlett of the USGS told ABC News.
USGSHawaii volcano An ash plume was recorded at heights of 12,000 feet
Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory (HVO) has, in the past 24 hours, announced that that the volcano alert level at Kilauea has changed to "WARNING" and the aviation code to "RED" - so what exactly does this mean?
The ash cloud was moving in a southwestern direction, prompting an "unhealthy air" advisory in the Pahala community, 18 miles from the summit, Reuters reported. It can make roads slippery and large emissions could cause the failure of electrical power lines, said USGS chemist David Damby.
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Tourism is one of Hawaii's major industries and counts for a big part of the local economy and tourism to the Big Island, the site of the volcano grew the fastest a year ago compared to the other islands.
Dr. Nair says students will still be visiting Hawaii's active volcanoes, but they'll be studying the Kilauea from a distance. Lava has burst from the ground to tear through housing developments and farmland, threatening one of the last exit routes from coastal areas, state Highway 132.
The eruption started on May 3 and around 20 fissures have opened up since then, with the lava destroying dozens of homes. Both agencies warned that there was lava flowing from fissure 17.
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Geologists have warned that if Kilauea erupts, the volcano could hurl ash and boulders miles into the sky.
Strong winds can pick up the floating particles and disperse them far away from the initial eruption.
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