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Report on Kilauea (United States) — November 1988


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 11 (November 1988)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Lava benches form and collapse at coast

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1988. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 13:11. Smithsonian Institution.


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

On 5 November at 1130, ~1/3 of the 400-450 x 60 m lava bench collapsed, and numerous smaller bench collapses were detected seismically throughout November. A large littoral cone that formed on 28 November produced 1-5-cm flakes of volcanic glass.

On 10 November, a series of surface outbreaks near the top of the fault scarp at ~350 m elevation fed lava that flowed into the Royal Gardens subdivision but caused no threat to remaining structures. By 14 November, the flow was barely moving. Two weeks later, an outbreak occurred at 180 m elevation, flowed E of the subdivision, and stagnated days later at ~100 m elevation. The Kupaianaha lava pond level remained stable at 25-30 m below the rim through November. During overflights on the 3rd and the 28th, low fountaining (~5-10 m high) was observed in Pu`u `O`o crater, covering as much as ½ of its floor with lava. Irregular tremor . . . near Pu`u `O`o had ended 4 November and typical low-level tremor resumed. Most upper East rift zone events were deeper than 5 km except along the rift axis where events were generally more shallow. Seismicity was steady beneath Kiluaea's S flank, but episodic swarms of intermediate-depth (5-13 km), long-period earthquakes were measured beneath the summit.

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.