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Report on Kilauea (United States) — September 1990

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 9 (September 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Continued east rift lava production; lava extending hundreds of meters into ocean

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199009-332010.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"The . . . eruption continued through September, feeding ocean entries in the Kalapana area (figure 72). Lava entered the ocean along a 1-km-wide front, extending from the shoreline a couple of hundred meters into the ocean. The ocean entries dominated activity in Kalapana until 24 September. Surface activity in Kalapana was confined to small breakouts that started small brushfires, burning one structure on the 15th. A large breakout was noted in the middle of the Kalapana flow field on the 17th.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 72. Kilauea's recent flows as of 31 October 1990 (outlined by a heavy line) in the Kalapana area. Contour interval is 20 feet (~7 m). Base map is the USGS Kalapana 7.5-minute topographic sheet (1981).

"On 24 September, a new breakout was noted on the 'Woodchip' tube, nearly 500 m W of Kaimu Bay. At the same time, activity at the ocean entries and other surface flows in the Kalapana area declined. The new breakout entered Kaimu Bay on 25 September. Within four days Kaimu Bay was filled, and new ocean entries were established 200 m beyond the old shoreline. The Kaimu flow continued to advance E and began to threaten homes in the Kalapana Shores subdivision. By the end of the month, lava flows had cut off access to all homes in the Kaimu area, as well as power and water to many.

"Pu`u `O`o remained active in the base of its crater; two active lava ponds were noted on the crater floor. Kupaianaha vent remained crusted over through September. The inflated areas at the base of Kupaianaha shield continued to produce active lava flows, which generally traveled no farther than 30 m from their breakout points. By the end of the month, no active lava flows were noted on these small shields."

The change in activity on 24 September coincided with a sequence of events registered beneath Kilauea's summit, associated with earlier pauses in surface lava flow activity: 1) a flurry of intermediate-depth (5-13 km) long-period earthquakes; 2) a significant increase in the amplitude of continuous shallow volcanic tremor coincident with a sharp decrease in ground tilt; and 3) sustained higher tremor amplitude as the ground tilt remained low.

"The September sequence began with a gradual buildup of the long-period activity from the early morning of 23 September. This activity peaked after ~12 hours, and the hourly counts of long-period events dropped suddenly with the decrease in ground tilt registered at approximately 1400. Summit volcanic tremor amplitude increased and remained elevationated through the next 2½ days while earthquake counts were very low. During this time, while flow activity at lower elevations in Kalapana and Kaimu did not subside, a decrease in flow activity at higher elevations nearer the Kupaianaha vent was noted and some gas-piston event signatures were registered . . . near Pu`u `O`o. The summit suddenly began to reinflate at about 0000 on 26 September, and the background volcanic tremor amplitude decreased following a 15-minute burst of shallow tremor at about 0100 on the 26th. A small, but clearly indentifiable increase in summit microearthquakes followed and microearthquake activity recovered to higher, average levels. During this 'instrumental' eruption pause it was possible to observe more event-like tremor behavior at the summit, and count the discrete events. While the registered counts possibly reflect only a lower background tremor level allowing individual events to be distinguished, the shallow tremor activity during this most recent pause did differ from that observed during earlier pauses."

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: T. Moulds and P. Okubo, HVO.