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Report on Kilauea (United States) — September 1987


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 9 (September 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Lava destroys seven more houses

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198709-332010


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The August lava flows continued to advance through 20 September, mostly on top of older flows on the coastal plain. A small amount of national park land was newly covered with lava (on the coast side of Chain of Craters Road) but no more of the coastal highway was overrun. Lobes of the lava flow approached the Royal Gardens Subdivision access road and another small lobe reached the high tide zone but stopped before it entered the ocean.

On 20 September the tube system became blocked on the upper slopes and flows stopped. The next day, a new flow broke out above the top of the fault scarp (pali) at ~365 m elevation, moved W, and by the 25th had destroyed one house along the E edge of Royal Gardens at ~50 m elevation. The flow continued to advance through the SE corner of the subdivision, and by 1 October had destroyed seven houses, raising the total destroyed to 55 since . . . January 1983. The temporary access road to the housing area was overrun by lava on 5 October, and lobes continued to cover older lava flows and the flat coastal plain (figure 52).

The estimated output of lava . . . remained steady at 500,000 m3/day. Some brief overflows occurred at the lava pond, mostly in conjunction with blockages in the tube system.

Harmonic tremor persisted . . . at the active vent and near Pu`u `O`o. Microshocks associated with structural adjustments at Pu`u `O`o occurred intermittently during the month. Short bursts of deep tremor lasting less than several hours occurred along the magma conduit system in the eastern part of Kilauea. Most earthquake activity was distributed broadly along the S flank as well as the summit region, and in the Kaoiki area along the SE flank of Mauna Loa.

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: C. Heliker and R. Koyanagi, HVO.