Report on Kilauea (United States) — 20 May-26 May 2009
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 20 May-26 May 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, 20 May-26 May 2009. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
19.421°N, 155.287°W; summit elev. 1222 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
During 20-26 May, 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 and Kupapa'u ocean entries. The vent in Halema'uma'u crater continued to produce a predominantly white plume that rose 200-300 m. The plume drifted N, NE, and SW, and caused poor air quality in the summit region. Small amounts of usually ash-sized tephra, including Pele's hair, Pele's tears, and glassy spatter, were retrieved from collection bins placed near the plume during the reporting period. A molten lava pool near the base of the cavity, deep below the floor of the vent, produced incandescence of variable intensity. Sounds resembling rushing gas and rockfalls were heard in the vicinity of the crater on 26 May.
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.