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Report on Kilauea (United States) — April 1992

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 4 (April 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) East rift lava production from fissure vent continues, but with brief pauses

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199204-332010.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Episode 51 . . . continued through early May with two pauses, each lasting less than a week. During the first half of April, E-51 vents on the W flank of Pu`u `O`o (figure 85) fed lava N to a perched pond on the small shield built by the recent activity, and to a large channel that carried flows southward. This channel, active since the brief pause at the end of March, had roofed over to form a tube by 6 April. Flows advancing through the tube reached the edge of the lava field on 13 April and began to burn trees in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, > 1 km from the vent. During this period, several smaller flows were active on the shield, some fed by the perched lava pond. The E-51 vents remained active, sustaining periodic low fountains, until the eruption halted on the evening of 19 April. No large flows were observed the next day, although small aa flows continued to drain lava stored in the pond area.

The eruption resumed on 23 April, as two vents along the E-51 fissure fed the pond and a channelized flow that headed S. Its aa front advanced rapidly and began burning vegetation in the national park by the next day. The lava pond and main channel also fed large shelly pahoehoe flows that moved N and W. Small, apparently tube-fed aa flows continued to break out on the shield. By 28 April, the main channel was beginning to roof over, but lava production stopped at 1130 that day, the channel drained, and lava flows stagnated.

The level of the small lava lake in Pu`u `O`o fluctuated between 36 and 53 m below the crater rim in April, sustaining numerous overflows onto the crater floor and vigorous spattering as it remained active throughout the month. After lava production stopped at the fissure vent on 28 April, the Pu`u `O`o lava lake rose until it spilled onto the crater floor on 3 May, and was still overflowing when the eruption resumed from the E-51 fissure vent the next day. Flows from the fissure vent generally remained on top of earlier lava during the following week, while the Pu`u `O`o lava lake withdrew into the conduit, to nearly 70 m below the crater rim.

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. Mattox, HVO.