Report on Kilauea (United States) — 25 July-31 July 2007
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 July-31 July 2007
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2007. Report on Kilauea (United States). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 July-31 July 2007. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
19.421°N, 155.287°W; summit elev. 1222 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
An important new eruption initiated at Kilauea very early on 21 July. It occurred along the E rift zone from fissures trending ENE for several kilometers from Pu'u O'o. The fissures caused drainage of both the West Gap lava lake and the Puka Nui pit. These and following events have come to be called the 21 July eruption and an associated fissure system by the same name.
As of 25 July, the 21 July eruption included instability at Pu'u 'O'o, fissuring along an NE-trending zone stretching a bit over 2 km in length, and lava flows over an area of a little over 1 km2.
A noteworthy feature of this eruption during the week 25-31 July was the formation of a series of perched ponds of lava. These formed as the edges of pools of lava hardened to create confining walls. These walls enable the pond's surface to be much higher--in some cases as much as 5 m (15 feet) higher than the surrounding land--like a volcanic above-ground swimming pool. During the 21 July eruption the walls of these perched ponds breached repeatedly, allowing lava to suddenly flood surrounding terrain. For example, at least three perched lava ponds breached by the 25th, each breakage spawning radially directed lava flows. Other small lava flows also emerged from fissures during the week as well.
The behavior of the perched ponds is difficult to judge and accordingly, around the start of this week the area was closed to the public. The eruption resided completely within the Kahauale'a Natural Area Reserve (just NE of the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park).
On the morning of the 26th, an M 3.2 earthquake occurred on the lower E rift zone, beneath Pu'ulena crater, at a depth of 3 km (2 miles). Lava ponds again formed in the area surrounding the fissures but views of the process were hampered by foul weather. The HVO update for 31 July noted two prominent lava ponds then. In addition, one of the fissures fed an 'a'a flow advancing to the NE around the N side of Kupaianaha.
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.