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Report on Kilauea (United States) — December 1988


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 12 (December 1988)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Kilauea (United States) Continued lava flow into sea; tube breakouts upslope

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1988. Report on Kilauea (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 13:12. Smithsonian Institution.


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Kilauea continued to erupt in December. Lava traveled through the tube system to the coast, continuing to build an active lava bench at sea level. Seismic stations > 10 km away detected minor bench collapses at 1804-1825 on 2 December and 2129-2150 on the 14th. These destroyed 10% and 20% of the total bench area. A series of lava breakouts from the main tube system at 440 and 330 m elevation began on the 10th and continued throughout the month. Lava (mostly low volumes of pahoehoe) repeatedly broke from the tube system, branched into several flows, and stagnated after the flow fronts reached ~100 m elevation. The lava flowed over and E of the main 1986-88 field, posing no threat to property. The Kupaianaha lava pond level averaged 20 m below the rim during the month.

Low-level tremor continued . . . near Pu`u `O`o and Kupaianaha. The signal pattern varied from steady amplitude sustained for many days to recurring bursts at intervals of a few minutes or hours. Rockfalls were detected at Pu`u `O`o throughout the month. Shallow microearthquakes continued at an average rate in the summit region and along the rift zone. Most of the 17 largest earthquakes (M 2.5-4.3) were located along the S flank of Kilauea and the SE flank of Mauna Loa at intermediate depths of ~5-15 km.

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.