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Report on Kilauea (United States) — 11 March-17 March 2009


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
11 March-17 March 2009
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2009. Report on Kilauea (United States). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 11 March-17 March 2009. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (11 March-17 March 2009)


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During 11-17 March, HVO reported that lava flowed SE from underneath Kilauea's Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB) and rootless shield complex through a lava tube system, reaching the Waikupanaha ocean entry and occasionally producing explosions. Thermal anomalies noted during most days on the coastal plain suggested surface flows. During 11-13 March, scattered surface flows near the Prince lobe were noted. On 13 March, a 30-m-wide lava flow entered the ocean at Kupapa'u, a second ocean entry location to the W of Waikupanaha. Kupapa'u was active during 14-17 March.

The vent in Halema'uma'u crater continued to produce a predominantly white plume; southwesterly winds often caused poor air quality in communities to the N. Incandescence from the vent was seldom seen. On 12 March, seemingly fresh spatter was collected from bins placed near the plume; minimal amounts of ash were collected the next day. The sulfur dioxide emission rate at the summit was 1,000 tonnes per day on 13 March; the 2003-2007 average rate was 140 tonnes per day. Field visits to the caldera floor indicated that there was an ash emission event sometime before dawn on 15 March, possibly following a wall collapse within the Halema'uma'u vent. Ash coated several monitoring instruments and was detected in Volcano, about 6 km NE. On 16 March, the plume drifted N and dusted HVO with ash.

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.

Source: US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)