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Report on Kilauea (United States) — May 1995

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 20, no. 5 (May 1995)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Kilauea (United States) Lava flows and ocean entries very active in the Highcastle area

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1995. Report on Kilauea (United States). In: Venzke, E. (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 20:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199505-332010.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


United States

19.421°N, 155.287°W; summit elev. 1222 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Eruptive activity along the E rift zone continued into early June, spilling lava into the ocean at the Highcastle and Kamoamoa sites. Breakouts from the Highcastle flow covered new land on the W margin and continued to burn Chain of Craters Road. Between 25 April and 8 May, inflation of the Highcastle flow was dramatic, and the old sea cliff was less distinct where active lava tubes crossed it. The Highcastle bench continued to grow and extend into the ocean, with as many as five active entries. Explosive activity was reported around 22 May. From late April to early June, the Kamoamoa entry was small but continuously active, dribbling lava into the ocean on the E side of the delta. By 5 June, almost all of the lava was confined to tubes. A few large surface flows were active on and above Pulama Pali from late April to mid-May; a breakout at 665 m burned through a large kipuka before stagnating.

Pu`u `O`o pond was 81-94.5 m below the crater rim throughout this period. The pond was at its lowest level on 2 May when lava poured into a NE cavity of the pond, eventually plugging it and returning the pond activity to normal. Two large lava cascades on the SW side of the pond, which appear when the level is low, were also visible at that time. On 16 May the pond was circulating slowly from SW to NE, with spatter activity concentrated in the center.

A number of rockfalls between 25 April and 8 May enlarged the upper collapse pit on Pu`u `O`o's W flank, dusting the N flank of the cone with fine red cinder. Sometime during 2-8 May, a 100 x 5-10 m piece of the SE crater rim collapsed, taking trail markers and a sampling box with it. Possibly as a result of this collapse, several meters of the SE crater wall were covered with a sheet of spatter.

Tremor intensity remained at ~2x background level until the morning of 27 April when ~7 rockfall events were recorded at the seismic station nearest Pu`u `O`o. Tremor amplitude then decreased to near background, where it persisted with occasional scattered bands of increased amplitude through 17 May, when a steady, gradual increase in amplitude (to ~3x background) began. By early June tremor intensity was again at background levels. Microearthquake counts were low beneath the summit except for 5 May, when LPC-A events totalled 194. Microearthquakes along the E rift zone were generally low in number until early June, when they rose to average levels. On 3 June, a M 3.6 earthquake hit the uppermost end of the E rift zone, slightly E of the caldera. Despite a flurry of aftershocks, no damage or injuries were reported.

Geologic Background. Kilauea, which overlaps the E flank of the massive Mauna Loa shield volcano, has been Hawaii's most active volcano during historical time. Eruptions are prominent in Polynesian legends; written documentation extending back to only 1820 records frequent summit and flank lava flow eruptions that were interspersed with periods of long-term lava lake activity that lasted until 1924 at Halemaumau crater, within the summit caldera. The 3 x 5 km caldera was formed in several stages about 1500 years ago and during the 18th century; eruptions have also originated from the lengthy East and SW rift zones, which extend to the sea on both sides of the volcano. About 90% of the surface of the basaltic shield volcano is formed of lava flows less than about 1100 years old; 70% of the volcano's surface is younger than 600 years. A long-term eruption from the East rift zone that began in 1983 has produced lava flows covering more than 100 km2, destroying nearly 200 houses and adding new coastline to the island.

Information Contacts: Tari Mattox and Paul Okubo, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718, USA.