Logo link to homepage

Report on Kilauea (United States) — February 1988


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 2 (February 1988)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Lava continues to enter ocean; littoral cones and tephra

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1988. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 13:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198802-332010


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Lava . . . continued . . . building deltas near Kupapau Point and farther E near the old Damien church site (figure 53). The W lobe had several active fronts and more volume than the E lobe. Near the end of February, the volume of lava feeding the E lobe began to decrease slowly, and by 1 March growth of the eastern delta had ceased. During the same period, the W lobe began to increase in volume along all the fronts that were entering the ocean, causing explosions and forming small littoral cones. A small spatter rampart was formed by one flow. Sand-sized tephra was produced by some of the explosions, and flakes of basaltic glass > 5 cm long, formed by steam bubbles rising through lava and exploding at the water's surface, were found as far as 1-2 km downwind of the steam columns.

The flow that . . . destroyed three more houses on the 11th reached the bottom of the steep slope and stopped on 14 February. The lava pond . . . overflowed intermittently 31 January-2 February, raising the N rim of the lava shield 6-8 m. The lava level dropped to 5-10 m below the rim for the rest of the month, at times exposing the top 2-3 m of the outlet to the tube system (figure 54). Lava fountaining and gas piston activity . . . at Pu`u `O`o continued. Strombolian activity and fountaining deposited spatter and reticulite pumice on the rim.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 54. Aerial view showing Kilauea's East-rift lava pond in the foreground, ocean in the far background. The line of fume traces the main lava tube feeding flows into the ocean. The pond is about 125 m in diameter. USGS photograph by Jim Griggs, taken 18 February 1988.

Harmonic tremor continued at a low level . . . beneath Pu`u `O`o and the shield vent. The generally constant tremor amplitude was occasionally interrupted by many hours of gas piston activity, characterized by 1-minute tremor bursts repeating at intervals of ~3-15 minutes. In the summit region, the number of shallow microearthquakes peaked at nearly 400/day then gradually decreased to < 100/day by the end of February. However, there were intermittent swarms of long-period events and weak tremor at shallow and intermediate depths beneath the summit region. Of the thousands of recorded earthquakes during February, 16 of the strongest had magnitudes ranging from 2.5 to 4.6. The M 4.6 event, at 1847 on 19 February, was centered on the S flank of Kilauea at 9 km depth. It was widely felt on the E half of the island, but no structural damage was reported.

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.