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Report on Kilauea (United States) — March 1983

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 3 (March 1983)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Eruption continues in middle east rift zone

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1983. Report on Kilauea (United States). In: McClelland, L. (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 8:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198303-332010.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

[With the following report, HVO scientists recognized that they were dealing with episodic eruptive behavior, which continued for the next three years. We have added numbered headers to help organize the reports. Originally referred to as "phases," the HVO staff later decided that the term "episode" was more appropiate (see SEAN 10:06). We have replaced the word "phase" throughout the text of earlier reports. Where the word "episode" was used in reports 8:3 to 10:6, we have substituted "period" to avoid confusion with the revised usage of "episode."]


"The 1983 eruption entered its third major episode of lava production in the early morning of 28 March. A 3.5-week quiescent period 4-28 March was interrupted only briefly by minor emission of spatter and pahoehoe lava on 21 March at vents S of Pu'u Kahaualea.

"Initially, on 28 March, the major eruptive activity occurred at a vent 700 m NE of Pu'u Kamoamoa, just inside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park boundary. Vigorous extrusive activity at this vent produced a flow that extended nearly 5 km SE along the National Park boundary (figure 17). Eruption of this vent stopped at 2019 on 30 March.

"A vent S of Pu'u Kahaualea that was the source of the major flows of late February and early March resumed erupting 28 March, sporadically at first. Its eruptive activity became steady at approximately 1800 on 29 March. From then through 5 April, when this report was prepared, it supplied a flow that slowly extended 4 km [revised to 3 km in 8:4] NE along the rift zone to the vicinity of Kalalua. Another flow from this vent moved about 3 km SE on 4 and 5 April. The vent continued as the single locus of lava production. Its vigorous fountain, commonly 100 m high and at times estimated as high as 300 m, was visible from a number of vantage points along the highway from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Hilo. Frothy scoria fragments, bombs of spatter, and thin spatter-fed flows built a prominent cone 60 m high [note growth to 80 m in 8:4], and a thin airfall pyroclastic blanket extended more than 1 km from the cone. Pele's hair fell as far as 17 km from the vent.

"The volume of basalt extruded since the eruption began on 3 January was on the order of 30 x 106 m3 [to at least 50 x 106 m3 by end of episode 3]. Flows of the present episode were dominantly aa. Lava temperatures ranging from 1112° to 1129°C were measured by thermocouple. Like the earlier 1983 lavas, those of late March-early April are slightly porphyritic, with scattered small plagioclase and olivine phenocrysts. The gas composition remained unchanged throughout the eruption, indicating that stored E rift magma remained the predominant source of the erupted lava."

Deformation and seismicity. "The water tube tiltmeter at Uwekahuna Vault in the summit region showed the correspondence of summit subsidence with major extrusion episodes in the E rift zone (figure 18). Moderate summit re-inflation followed the extrusive episodes of early January and early March. The tiltmeter data in combination with levelling results indicated a cumulative volume of at least 70 x 106 m3 [to 80 x 106 m3 by the end of episode 3; 8:4] for magma withdrawn from the shallow summit region since the beginning of the eruptive/intrusive activity in early January.

"Since cessation of the initial earthquake swarm in early January, seismicity in the eruptive zone was characterized by unceasing harmonic tremor that waxed and waned in amplitude in concert with the eruptive activity. As determined from a seismic station near Pu'u Kamoamoa and from portable seismometer traverses, the tremor originated from a source within a few kilometers of the surface in a zone between Pu'u Kamoamoa and the vents S of Pu'u Kahaualea.

"Following the major outbreak of 25 February-4 March, tremor continued at a decreased level. On 21 March, the amplitude gradually increased from 0430 to 0630, remained moderately high for most of the day, and decreased to its previous low level on the following day.

"A gradual increase in amplitude occurred again beginning in the early morning of 27 March. By 0100 on 28 March the tremor amplitude increased by about 5 times at the Pu'u Kamoamoa station. Glow from active fountains was reported shortly thereafter. Tremor remained strong as of 5 April, at times reaching an amplitude greater than 10 times background for periods of a few minutes to several hours."

Addendum: Steven Brantley reported that lava fountaining from the vent S of Pu'u Kahaualea stopped at 0257 [but revised to 0247 in 8:4] on 9 April. By 0430, harmonic tremor had decreased to low levels, and the rate of summit deflation had decreased to less than 0.05 µrad/hour. The SE flow from this vent entered the Royal Gardens subdivision on 8 April. Approximately seven [six confirmed in 8:4] structures were destroyed before the flow stopped late in the afternoon of 9 April.

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: E. Wolfe, A. Okamura, R. Koyanagi, and S. Brantley, HVO; UPI.