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Report on Kilauea (United States) — February 1990


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 2 (February 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Eruption stops, then resumes with vigorous surface activity; two new ocean entries

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199002-332010


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

An eruption hiatus [see also Addendum to 15:01] began on 5 February at about 2000, when . . . tremor near Kupaianaha lava pond decreased to about half its previous level. A peak in long-period caldera seismicity of almost 200 events/day had been recorded on 4 February, but the number of these events had fallen to < 20/day by the 7th. By 6 February, the terminus of the 13 January 1990 flow (figure 66) was stagnant, with only minor activity upslope. A rockfall near the ocean entry was recorded . . . at 1319 on 6 February, and background tremor in that area has remained low since then. By the 7th, only 10-20% of the normal lava output at the Poupou ocean entry was flowing into the sea. On the 8th and 9th, only small pahoehoe lobes were active around crusted lava in Kupaianaha lava pond and the Poupou ocean entry was generally stagnant.

Renewed activity was signaled by a sharp increase in summit microearthquakes on 9 February at 0900-1000 that continued for 8 hours, with >150 events registered on the Kilauea caldera station (NPT). From 1400 to 1500 the number of earthquakes in the upper and middle East rift zone rose significantly, remaining high until seismicity decreased to moderate levels at 2200. Strong glow from Pu`u `O`o was observed that night, and by the next morning, vigorous surface activity had resumed. Active lava had returned to Pu`u `O`o, the level of Kupaianaha had risen to 20 m below the rim, and lava had reoccupied the tube system as far as 560 m (1,850 ft) elevation. A surface lava breakout at 590 m (1,950 ft) elevation fed a flow that contained ~1/3 of the lava output from Kupaianaha pond. Lava flowed into the Royal Gardens subdivision (along Queen St.), destroying two houses and narrowly missing several others. By the end of the month, its terminus had stagnated, but small breakouts continued above the fault scarp at ~180 m (600 ft) elevation. Another major surface flow emerged from the tube at the 560 m elevation and split into three lobes. The main (Quarry) lobe flowed along the E side of of the 1988 Quarry flow (figure 66), entered the ocean on the 20th at 2340, and built a 500 x 100 m bench by the end of the month. The second (Roberts) entered the ocean on the 23rd at 0500, ~600 m SW of the main lobe's entry, building a small bench. To the E, the third, low-volume lobe (Keone) flowed through grassland, and by the end of the month was < 1 km from houses and a highway near the town of Kalapana. All lobes remained active by the end of February.

Geological Summary. 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: C. Heliker and P. Okubo, HVO.