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Report on Kilauea (United States) — 9 March-15 March 2011


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
9 March-15 March 2011
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2011. Report on Kilauea (United States). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 9 March-15 March 2011. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (9 March-15 March 2011)


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

HVO reported that on 9 March vigorous spattering as high as 50 m was noted from the W end of the Kamoamoa fissure, which had opened on 5 March, along Kilauea's east rift zone between Napau Crater and Pu'u 'O'o. Low lava fountains fed a channelized 'a'a lava flow, 80-290 m wide, that advanced at least 2.9 km to the SE. The lava flow waned starting at 1700 and spattering from the fissure stopped around 2230. The Volcano Alert Level was lowered to Watch and the Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

During 9-10 March gas measurements showed a sulfur dioxide emission rate of about 4,400 tonnes/day from all east rift zone sources. The rate dropped to 350 tonnes/day on 10 March, and to 100 tonnes/day on 13 March, a value lower than those measured for the months before the Kamoamoa fissure eruption. Seismic tremor declined, but remained elevated above pre-Kamoamoa eruption levels at the summit and the eruption site. During 13-15 March incandescent areas were visible within Pu'u 'O'o crater.

At the summit caldera, a gas plume from the deep pit within Halema'uma'u crater drifted mainly SW during 9-15 March. The level of the lava in the pit was about 220 m below the crater floor, confirmed during an overflight on 9 March. It could not be observed during an overflight the next day because the bottom of the vent was obscured by rubble. Incandescence was occasionally seen in the web camera. An overflight on 14 March revealed that lava was present in the vent; the level slowly rose during the night. On 15 March tephra and fresh spatter was collected from an area beneath the plume.

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)