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Report on Kilauea (United States) — February 1993

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 2 (February 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Kilauea (United States) Episode 53 begins; lava flows from tube breakout reach Kamoamoa delta

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Kilauea (United States) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199302-332010.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"An upper east rift intrusive swarm began at 2325 on 7 February. More than 5,000 microshocks were counted in the first 48 hours of the swarm; these continued, in smaller numbers, until 18 February, when counts gradually decreased to normal. Several hundred events were processed, most located near Makaopuhi Crater, ~15 km SE of the summit and 6.4 km SW of Pu'u ' O'o. High-amplitude tremor beneath the summit accompanied the swarm. The count of shallow, short-period events beneath the summit was low, while that of shallow, long-period events was slightly above average until 22 February, peaking at >100 events on 19 February. The Uwekahuna water-tube tiltmeter at the summit of Kilauea recorded ~15 µrad of deflation during the swarm. The tilt then reversed, recovering all of the deflation associated with the swarm by 23 February. The summit then slowly deflated again, with an E tilt of ~4 µrad recorded 23 February-1 March.

"On 8 February the magma supply to the E-51 vent was interrupted. Eruption tremor amplitudes, which had been ~2x background, rapidly diminished to background by 0400. As the E-51 tube system drained at the coast, sea water entered the tube, resulting in increased explosive activity starting at 0430 that continued intermittently for 3 hours. All flows stagnated by 9 February, but skylights remained incandescent for several days.

"The floor of Pu`u `O`o crater (35 m below the rim) collapsed on 8 February. After the collapse, the bottom of the crater consisted of talus slopes, with the lowest point >85 m below the crater rim. The lava pond reappeared on 10 February, and flows began to resurface the crater floor.

Episode 53 (E-53). "Eruption tremor remained at background levels until a gradual increase in amplitude on 16 February. On the same day, the lava pond in Pu`u `O`o rose dramatically and slow-moving lava was visible through the upper skylights of the E-51 tube. Two days later, sluggish pahoehoe flows broke out of the tube at 640 m elevation. More flows broke out at lower elevations, and by 20 February, channelized flows reached the top of Pulama pali. At 1450, lava fountains up to 4 m high were observed on the S flank of Pu`u `O`o, marking the beginning of E-53. The following day, the E-53 vent was ejecting spatter 15 m into the air and had formed a 30 m wide cone, with walls as high as 14 m. Flows from the vent area fanned out, filling the old E-52 collapsed pond and heading S towards the E-51 tube system.

"On 22 February, E-53 flows entered the E-51 tube through a skylight at 715 m elevation. The increase in magma in the tube led to an increase in activity. From 0000 to 0500, the eruption tremor amplitude increased noticeably to ~3-4x background. Amplitudes were sustained at 2-3x background for the remainder of the week. Large channelized flows advanced down the pali, fed by both the E-51 and E-53 vents. These flows merged with breakouts between 150 and 120 m elevation, reaching 60 m on 26 February. By 1 March, lava flows from the two vents were within 200 m of the ocean on the Kamoamoa delta, and within 40 m of Chain of Craters Road (figure 88).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 88. Map of recent lava flows from the East rift zone of Kilauea, April 1993. Courtesy of HVO.

"On 26 February, the crater floor in Pu`u `O`o was 59 m below the spillway rim. The last 2 weeks in February, lava in the pond fluctuated between this level and ~77 m below the 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 and P. Okubo, HVO.