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Report on Kilauea (United States) — February 1991


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 2 (February 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Lava flows build more new land at coast

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199102-332010


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Lava . . . moved downslope through tubes and entered the ocean, adding new land on the W side of the lava field, where three main ocean entries were active in February (figure 77). The W entry continued to build a littoral cone on the 1989/90 sea cliff, but rapid erosion prevented new lava from persistently extending farther into the ocean in this area. Collapse of the W entry's small lava bench about 20 February exposed its feeder tube, and lava poured into the ocean in a high-pressure stream, building a new bench. At the central and E entries, new lava was accumulating below two earlier features, the 1989/90 sea cliff and the bench formed between fall 1990 and early 1991. Cumulative new land from these two entries extended ~30 m into the ocean along 125 m of shoreline, with the newest material covering an area ~10 m wide and half the length of the old bench. Pele's hair, spatter, and limu were abundant along the benches and the old sea cliff. Lava broke out from the tube system in several places on both the E and W sides of the flow field, but covered little new land and did not threaten additional homes. A lava pond remained active in Pu`u `O`o crater, which appeared essentially unchanged from the previous month.

Long-period tremor episodes remained frequent through early March, averaging ~2,000/day since mid-February, except for a brief decline 27-28 February to <1,000/day. A swarm of shallow, upper east rift microearthquakes occurred 15-17 February, reaching 129 events on the 17th, ~3x the average daily count, and this activity remained elevationated later in the month.

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: T. Moulds and P. Okubo, HVO.