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Report on Kilauea (United States) — November 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 11 (November 1993)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Kilauea (United States) Lava bench collapse with vigorous explosive activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Kilauea (United States) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:11. Smithsonian Institution.


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Lava . . . continued to enter the ocean via the lava tube system throughout November. In the beginning of the month, lava entered the ocean on the W side of Kamoamoa delta along a 50-m-wide front, which grew to 270 m by mid-month. There were two prominent entry points along the W side of the front as well as two diffuse entry points on the E side. For most of the month, lava flows built a bench that extended 50 m into the ocean. Intermittent explosive activity at the entries built loosely consolidated littoral cones on the bench.

On 7 November, the National Park Service reported a bench collapse resulting in vigorous explosive activity. The active bench area continued to build out toward the W after the collapse. A littoral cone was constructed as a result of explosive events at the western-most ocean entry, possibly associated with the 7 November bench collapse. As the cone grew, cracks developed on its flank parallel to the coast. On the afternoon of 26 November, vigorous littoral explosions began, followed by a collapse of 20,000 m2 of lava later that evening. The scarp formed by the collapse was over 400 m long and 80 m wide. In one location, the area of collapse extended 30 m inland of the bench. Violent littoral explosions immediately followed this event; however, only two small spatter blankets were deposited on the delta. By the end of the month, two new benches were building out beyond the 8-m-high scarp. A skylight at 60 m elevation remained open and no surface flows were reported throughout the month.

The lava pond in Pu`u `O`o was active at 83-84 m below the N spillway rim with sluggish circulation from W to E. There were two areas of spattering below the spillway area. It was observed that a meter-wide sliver of the E crater wall, between the spillways, collapsed sometime between 29 October and 16 November. Volcanic tremor persisted at low amplitude levels of ~2-3x a quiet background level. Tremor amplitudes occasionally increased slightly, but essentially steady tremor continued through November. Microearthquake counts were low, but there were 7 earthquakes M >3.0 from 26 October to 8 November.

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. Mattox and P. Okubo, HVO.