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volcano sunrise

The first rays of dawn backlight the steam plume rising from Halema’uma’u, a “crater within a crater” that has been erupting continuously for almost five years.  Halema’uma’u sits inside the larger Kilauea caldera.  There is a lava “lake” inside Halema’uma’u, about 100′ below the top of the crater, and it’s the heat from that lava that’s causing all the steam to form.

During most of the day, the steam is a nondescript pale white, but at sunrise and sunset you can get some spectacular images.  In this image the plume glows yellow, but I also have a number of images of it glowing pink (which I’ll post another day).  Sometimes the plume goes straight up, and sometimes when the winds are blowing strongly it’s much closer to the ground.

Speaking of winds, the plume usually drifts in the opposite direction from that shown in the image above.  I was facing east, towards the rising sun, and the plume was blowing north.  The prevailing trade winds blow from the northeast, and usually push the plume in a southwesterly direction.  But for the first several days of my visit, the trades were replaced by the Kona winds, which blow from the southwest, and pushed the plume to the northeast.  Got that?

In fact, when I showed my shots to my friends who live on The Big Island, their first comment was “Hey, the plume’s going the ‘wrong’ way!”

Ah, but if the plume was blowing in the “right” direction, it wouldn’t be framing the sunrise so beautifully, would it?  So for me the “wrong” direction turned out to be the “right” direction!



  1. Nothing wrong about that – wonderful shot.

  2. this is rather special

    • Thanks Scott. Nature puts on a good show at times. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  3. wow…..wonderful….wonderful….wonderful 🙂
    a kiss

  4. Love this! Looking forward to the pink steam plume shots.

    • Sorry Gail, the pink plume got pre-empted by Cuba! But in a few more weeks we can go back to Hawai’i if you like…

      RPRT Photo

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