Logo link to homepage

Report on Kilauea (United States) — October 1998


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 23, no. 10 (October 1998)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Kilauea (United States) Lava from Pu`u `O`o continues to build bench

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1998. Report on Kilauea (United States) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 23:10. Smithsonian Institution.


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The eruption of Pu`u `O`o continued in October as lava moved 11 km to the sea through both small, intermittent surface flows and through a lava tube that developed after a pause on 12-14 August (BGVN 23:08).

By 19 October, a 300-m-wide lava bench had grown W of the prominent littoral cone at a new ocean entry, extending 60 m beyond the old shoreline. Surface flows obscured the old sea cliff that once marked the relatively safe visitor viewing areas (figure 124).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 124. An aerial view of the Kamokuna lava bench on the SE coast of Kilauea, 24 September 1998. Note location of the former sea cliff. The bench was ~ 150 m wide at the W entry area, near the larger white plume. Photograph by J. Kauahikaua; courtesy HVO.

Dense volcanic fumes from Pu`u `O`o obscured its crater for several weeks, and no lava has been seen in the crater for many months, although there have been reports of glow at night near the summit. In late October, Pu`u `O`o was releasing ~2,000 tons/day of SO2. This discharge is equivalent to the gas contained in ~400,000 m3 of lava, in concurrence with measurements of lava discharge above the lava tube ~5 km from the vent.

A new skylight formed above the lava tube at 635 m elevation showed lava moving 7-9 m below the surface. This part of the tube formed in August 1997, and since then flowing lava eroded the underlying flows to form a tube that is taller than it is wide.

Pu`u `O`o is the only active vent at Kilauea. The vent area is complex and slowly forms new pits, cracks, and collapse areas. Since the current eruption began in January 1983, a mosaic of flows has buried 16 km of the coastal highway to a depth of 23 m and created nearly 2.6 km2 of new land. Recently, lava has flowed into the sea at three entry points near Kamokuna, 4.8 km E of the end of the "Chain of Craters Road" in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The easternmost entry has been active since August 1997, but is slowly dying as ruptures in the main tube divert lava elsewhere. Other entry points evolved in September and October 1998. The deltas or benches formed at sea entry points are unstable, collapsing without warning. The largest such collapse occurred a few years ago and involved 10 ha of bench material (105 m2).

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: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), U.S. Geological Survey, PO Box 51, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718, USA (URL: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/); Ken Rubin and Mike Garcia, Hawaii Center for Volcanology, University of Hawaii, Dept. of Geology & Geophysics, 2525 Correa Rd., Honolulu, HI 96822 USA (URL: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/hcv.htm).