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Golfers at Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park on May 15, 2018. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano, which until Tuesday had mainly been oozing lava through 20 fissures in the ground, is now sending ash clouds as high as 12,000 feet into the air.

The big picture: The volcano's latest eruption, which began on May 3, has moved into a new, more dangerous phase and shows no signs of stopping. The U.S. Geological Survey and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have issued a "red" alert to ensure pilots avoid the ash cloud, which can damage modern jet engines.

The details: The more explosive eruptions and related ash clouds are happening because the lava lake level in the volcano's crater has drained all the way down to near the level of the water table. This is releasing a large amount of steam, and rocks that fall into the crater can block the steam from escaping into the air. This causes pressure to build up, resulting in more explosive eruptions.

In a May 16 eruption update, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said they had discovered "dense ballistic blocks up to 60 cm (2 feet) across" in a parking lot a few hundred yards from the crater. "These reflect the most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity," the agency said. "Further observations are necessary to asses this interpretation."

What's next: The USGS says more ash clouds, and potentially even more powerful eruptions, are possible with little advanced warning. Also, lava continues to flow and form new fissures. In other words, this isn't over.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.