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Report on Kilauea (United States) — April 1995


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 20, no. 4 (April 1995)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Kilauea (United States) Lava flows, breakouts, tremor, and more

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1995. Report on Kilauea (United States) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 20:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199504-332010


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The 12-year-long eruption on Kilauea's E rift zone continued in March-April, with vents on the SW flank of the Pu`u `O`o cone feeding directly into lava tubes. Recent heights of the lava lake are at the bottom of table 4 and a map showing recent flows appears on figure 97 (for comparison, the previous map appeared in BGVN 20:02).

Table 4. Summary of Kilauea seismic data, lava flux rate, and lava pond heights for stated dates or intervals in 1995. Courtesy of HVO.

Date/Interval Observation Type Comment
Late Feb-03 Mar 1995 Earthquakes Intermediate depth activity remained high, slowly decaying to background levels.
Late Feb-10 Mar 1995 East Rift Zone Tremor Tremor with stable amplitudes ~3-4x background.
03 Mar 1995 Pu`u `O`o lava pond 79 m below rim.
10 Mar 1995 East Rift Zone Tremor Tremor dropped to 2x background with intermittent bursts of higher amplitude (similar to banded tremor) at 1900.
14 Mar-15 Mar 1995 Earthquakes In a 37-hour period beginning at 0900 on 14 March there were 134 intermediate-depth events.
14 Mar-27 Mar 1995 East Rift Zone Tremor Tremor continued.
19 Mar 1995 Earthquakes M 4.3 earthquake at ~50 km depth, W of the Island of Hawaii.
21 Mar 1995 Pu`u `O`o lava pond 75 m below rim.
27 Mar 1995 Earthquakes M 4.1 earthquake at 25 km depth beneath the upper E rift zone.
28 Mar-10 Apr 1995 East Rift Zone Tremor Tremor fairly constant at 2-3x background.
28 Mar-10 Apr 1995 Pu`u `O`o lava pond 75-81 m below rim.
11 Apr-24 Apr 1995 Earthquakes Shallow, long-period microearthquake counts were slightly above average. The number of short-period events was low.
11 Apr-24 Apr 1995 East Rift Zone Tremor Tremor continued, amplitudes were low, ~1.5-2x background. Shallow, long-period microearthquake counts were slightly above average.
11 Apr-24 Apr 1995 Pu`u `O`o lava pond 90-86 m below rim. Continued lava circulation from W to E in the pond.
03 May 1995 Earthquakes Swarm of 13 located earthquakes, the largest M 3.9; they were interpreted as shallow crustal adjustments beneath Hilina Pali.
10-30 Apr 1995 Lava flux rate ~400,000 m3/day (Volcano Watch, 1995).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 97. Kilauea lava flows grouped into three time intervals: 1983 to 1992; 1992 to April 1995; and 11-20 April 1995. Heavy dashed line indicates lava tubes, and the contour interval is 500 m. Courtesy of USGS.

During 28 February-13 March fluid pahoehoe breakouts spread W and covered more of the Chain of Craters road. The eruption slowed during 14-16 March. Flows became more viscous and the amount of lava entering the ocean dwindled. On 16 March, cooler temperatures were measured on a thermocouple hanging through an opening in the roof of an active lava tube. By the morning of 17 March all flows entering the sea had temporarily stopped, but temperatures rose to normal values in the active tube and by early afternoon lava began escaping the tube system at three elevations; one reached within 500 m of the highway by 27 March.

In the 24 March-10 April interval, two tubes diverging toward the E and W sides of the flow field, the Kamoamoa and the Lae'apuki tubes, respectively, continued to feed flows on the coastal plain. The Highcastle lava flow escaped from the E tube (figure 97), advancing toward the ocean as a sheet flow, covering the lower part of another recent flow (the Jason flow), and reaching the ocean on 29 March. By 6 April, the Highcastle flows had built a 500-m-wide lava bench 20-30 m oceanward. On 7 April, a large breakout from the 104-m elevation on Paliuli headed towards the ocean on top of previously emplaced flows. By 8 April, flows on the coastal plain had stilled and the amount of lava entering the ocean decreased. The east rift zone eruption paused briefly on 11 April and flows on the coastal plain stagnated.

When the eruption later resumed, lava broke out of the tube system on Pulama pali, feeding numerous aa and pahoehoe flows. Two lava flows entered the ocean on about 18-20 April. Pahoehoe lava engulfed an older cone that had been created by littoral explosions in July 1994, leaving only a remnant of the cone visible on 20 April. The following day, a seismic station in the coastal area recorded a bench collapse-littoral explosion and at the same time observers saw the steam plume abruptly increase in size.

On the topic of a public policy issue relevant to volcanologists and public access to volcanoes, in 1992 US and local government personnel rescued a movie cameraman trapped on a ledge above Pu`u O`o lava lake. Although rescue workers were cited for valor, an Associated Press news report (Miller, 1995) also mentions how local authorities made subsequent attempts to gain partial reimbursement for $75,000 in rescue expenses. These latter efforts were unsuccessful. According to the news story, in the United States two strategies appear to have emerged for dealing with rescue and related costs: 1) stiff fees paid by park users (eg. $150 for a climbing permit in Denali National Park, Alaska), and 2) rules or laws that specifically dictate that fees be billed to those rescued.

References. Miller, Angela S., 1995, When Risk Leads to Rescue, Who Pays the Cost?: Associated Press, 10 February 1995.

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: Tari Mattox and Paul Okubo, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718, USA.