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)

Aina 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. 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 was most recently home to a lake of lava from 2008 to 2018.

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.

In May of 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.
 
Timeline showing historic eruptions of Kīlauea
Chart adapted from "Eruptions of Hawaiian Volcanoes— Past, Present, and Future" (2010) from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
 
Brown steaming body of water
The growing lake in Halemaʻumaʻu crater (USGS/M. Patrick)

On August 1st, 2019, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists confirmed a growing lake of water inside Halema'uma'u crater at the summit of Kīlauea. As of April 2020, the depth of the lake is approximately 35 meters or 115 feet. It is approximately 107 meters (~351 feet) wide by 211 meters (~692 feet) long. The water is about 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit). Never before in modern history has there been water visible at the summit of Kīlauea in the form of a lake.

Current information:

 

Notable Eruptions of 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.

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.

Molten lava cascades into a crater

1969-1974 Eruption of Mauna Ulu

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

Lava spatter at night

1983-2018 Eruption of Puʻu ʻŌʻō

In the past 500 years, no eruption comes close to matching the duration of the one that began on the eastern shoulder of Kīlauea 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.

 
Kīlauea Summit - Before & After Collapse
Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008 Kīlauea summit on August 1, 2018
Kīlauea summit on November 28, 2008 Photo courtesy USGS - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Kīlauea summit on August 1, 2018 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.



 
Growth of the Water Lake in Halemaʻumaʻu
Steaming volcanic crater with small blue pool of water in the bottom Steaming volcanic crater with large, yellow-brown lake in the middle
Halemaʻumaʻu Crater on August 7th, 2019 (USGS/D. Swanson)
Halemaʻumaʻu Crater on April 21st, 2020 (USGS/M. Patrick)
 Drag center circle/line left and right to reveal the before and after photos.



Last updated: July 7, 2020

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