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Report on Kilauea (United States) — 21 September-27 September 2011


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
21 September-27 September 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, 21 September-27 September 2011. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (21 September-27 September 2011)


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During 21-27 September, HVO reported that the lava lake circulated and periodically rose and fell in the deep pit within Kilauea's Halema'uma'u crater. Almost daily measurements indicated that the gas plume from the vent continued to deposit variable amounts of ash and occasionally fresh spatter nearby.

At the E rift zone, lava in the W lava lake in Pu'u 'O'o Crater fed a series of lava flows that traveled down the W flank of Pu'u 'O'o during 20-21 September. At about 0225 on 21 September activity in the crater and overflows to the W suddenly decreased, as lava broke through the upper E flank of Pu'u 'O'o, bypassing the crater. The new fissure fed a channelized 'a'a lava flow that advanced rapidly downslope 2.5 km SE. A second flow to the W of the first began the next day. In addition, a small pad of lava actively refilled the bottom of the drained E lava lake and small flows were barely active at the W edge of Pu'u 'O'o Crater. The channelized 'a'a lava flow reached 3.7 km long on 23 September and then stalled within the Kahauale'a Natural Area Reserve. Most of the active lava spread S and W of Pu'u Halulu (1.3 km NE of Pu'u 'O'o) during 23-27 September. Minor lava activity resumed within Pu'u 'O'o Crater with short lava flows issuing from the base of the E wall on 25 September and from the W wall base during 25-26 September. The crater floor of Pu'u 'O'o slowly subsided. Lava activity resumed within the E lake on 26 September. The floor of the crater continued to subside during 26-27 September, opening up cracks in the N crater floor.

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)