Kīlauea

Map of lava flows from Kīlauea volcano color coded by year with lava flow hazard zones
Map from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of lava flows from Kīlauea, color coded by eruption and designated lava flow hazard zone (Click for full size image)

ʻĀina a ke akua i noho ai
(Land where the goddess dwells)

Kīlauea is the youngest and most active volcano on the island of Hawaiʻi, and one of the busiest in the world. In recorded history, Kīlauea has only had short periods of repose. It has covered almost 90% of its surface in lava flows within the last 1,000 years. Some say that even the name Kīlauea translates to “spewing" or "much spreading”.

First forming underwater roughly 280,000 years ago, Kīlauea is a fairly typical shield volcano with long, shallow slopes. Its surface makes up an area slightly smaller than the island of Oʻahu.

Traditionally, Kīlauea is viewed by many Native Hawaiians as the home of the volcanic deity Pelehonuamea. She is said to reside in Halemaʻumaʻu crater, a persistently active pit within the summit caldera. Halemaʻumaʻu crater has a long history of lava lake-style eruptive events. It is currently home to a lava lake that appeared on December 20, 2020.

Radiating out from the summit, Kīlauea has two rift zones stretching to the east and southwest. These rift zones host most eruptions that occur outside of the summit. The East Rift is historically the more active of the two, most recently erupting from January 1983 to August 2018.

From May to July 2018, a massive eruption on the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea relieved magmatic pressure under Halemaʻumaʻu, causing the crater to collapse and expand from 280 feet (85m) deep and 0.5 miles (0.8 km) wide to 1600 feet (487m) deep and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide.
 
Rainbow rising from a black lake of molten lava within a volcanic crater
Lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu during the 2020-2021 eruption (USGS/F. Trusdell)

Then in 2019, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists confirmed a growing lake of water inside Halema'uma'u crater. Never before in modern history had there been water visible at the summit of Kīlauea in the form of a lake. But on December 20, 2020, the ten-story deep lake was boiled off when lava re-entered Halemaʻumaʻu during the summit eruption of 2020.

Current information:

 
 
From lava to water and back again. Learn about three remarkable changes in the past three years at Halemaʻumaʻu crater.
 

Kīlauea Summit - Before & After Collapse

Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008 Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008

Left image
Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008
Credit: Photo courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Right image
Kīlauea summit on August 1, 2018
Credit: Photo courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory: Before and after the massive summit collapses that occured in a few short months during the summer of 2018. Drag center circle/line left and right to reveal the photos.

 
Timeline showing historic eruptions of Kīlauea
Chart adapted from "Eruptions of Hawaiian Volcanoes— Past, Present, and Future" (2010) from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
 

Recent Events at Kīlauea

 
Hand-colored photo of lava moving through a forest landscape

1919-1920 Eruption of Maunaiki

The Maunaiki eruption in the Kaʻū Desert lasted from December 1919 to August 1920.

Black and white photograph of human figures in front of an ash cloud

1924 Explosive Eruption of Kīlauea

For 18 days in 1924, hundreds of steam explosions from Kīlauea hurled mud, debris, and boulders great distances.

Black and white photo of molten lava at night, from above.

1952 Summit Eruption

The 1952 eruption at the summit of Kīlauea volcano lasted for 136 days.

Glowing orange molten lava lake from above.

1954 Summit Eruption

The short eruption of 1954 was not specifically predicted, but it was not unexpected.

Erupting lava fountain at night

1959 Eruption of Kīlauea Iki

The 1959 eruption out of Kīlauea Iki Crater featured a lake of lava and the highest lava fountains ever recorded.

Black and white photo of a lava fountain from above at night

1961 Summit Eruption

Halemaʻumaʻu crater hosted three eruptive phases during a seven month period of sporadic activity in 1961.

Pond of molten lava and rivulets from above

1967-1968 Summit Eruption

The spectacular eruption of 1967-1968 lasted 251 days.

Molten lava cascades into a crater

1969-1974 Eruption of Maunaulu

The eruption of Maunaulu lasted nearly five years and reshaped the landscape.

An erupting volcanic fissure at the base of a pit crater fountains orange molten lava and pools it

July 1974 Summit Eruption

The three-day eruption in July 1974 sent flows across Chain of Craters Road and into Kaluapele (Kīlauea caldera)

Erupting lava cone at night

1983-2018 Eruption of Puʻuʻōʻō

In the past 500 years, no rift zone eruption comes close to matching the duration of the one that began in 1983.

Silhouette of human figures in front of a glowing volcanic crater

2008-2018 Summit Eruption

The summit of Kīlauea hosted a lava lake-style eruption for a decade before the massive summit collapse in 2018.

Aerial view of a river of molten lava

2018 Eruption and Summit Collapse

The eruption of Kīlauea in 2018 was the largest in centuries and coincided with a dramatic summit collapse.

A brown lake in a volcanic crater with a swirl of turquoise on the lower half

Kīlauea Summit Lake

In August 2019, water appeared in the form of a lake in Halemaʻumaʻu crater

Erupting volcanic crater glowing at night

2020-2021 Summit Eruption

Photos and media from the eruption that began on December 20, 2020

Last updated: September 1, 2021

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