Hydrogen can facilitate the detachment of protective oxide layer off metals and alloys. The degradation is usually exacerbated at elevated temperatures in many industrial applications; however, its origin remains poorly understood. Here by heating hydrogenated aluminium inside an environmental transmission electron microscope, we show that hydrogen exposure of just a few minutes can greatly degrade the high temperature integrity of metal–oxide interface. Moreover, there exists a critical temperature of ∼150 °C, above which the growth of cavities at the metal–oxide interface reverses to shrinkage, followed by the formation of a few giant cavities. Vacancy supersaturation, activation of a long-range diffusion pathway along the detached interface and the dissociation of hydrogen-vacancy complexes are critical factors affecting this behaviour. These results enrich the understanding of hydrogen-induced interfacial failure at elevated temperatures.