THE CURRENT ERUPTION OF KILAUEA VOLCANO

Photo of the "fire hose" flow, a small lava tube pouring into the ocean. Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, November 27, 1989.


Lesson at a glance, Key Concepts, and Lesson Outcomes are available by clicking here.


Background:

The current eruption of Kilauea Volcano is the most long-lived and voluminous rift zone eruption in Hawaii in historical time. The eruption has provided volcanologists with exceptional opportunities to better understand how volcanoes work. It has also reminded residents about the hazards of living on an active volcano.

This description is presented in short paragraphs that describe important events in the history of the current eruption. Details of the first 20 episodes of the eruption are given in Wolfe and others (1987, 1988). A general summary and very readable account of the eruption is given by Heliker and Wright (1991a). Numerous summaries are given in VolcanoWatch , a weekly publication by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The U.S. Geological Survey recently published a CD-ROM that contains 475 photographs of the eruption from 1983-1993 (Takahashi, T.J., Abston, C.C., and Heliker, C.C. (1995).

The current eruption is divided into episodes. An episode is a volcanic event that is distinguished by its duration or style. Episodes are commonly separated by a period of repose during which there is no lava at the surface. To date (February 1996), there have been 53 episodes. They have lasted from less than 24 hours to several years. Keeping track of all these episodes, especially after Episode 49, can be confusing, even if you are a volcanologist. A table is provided that summarizes episodes, major events, and dates.

To make it easier to learn about this long eruption, its history is divided into several different periods. Each period correspondence to significant changes in the style of eruption, location of the active vent(s), and/or impact of the eruption on people and places.
  1. Start of the Eruption: 1983

  2. Puu Oo: 1983-1986

  3. Kupaianaha: 1986-1989

  4. Kupaianaha: 1990-1991

  5. Episode 49 and the End of the Kupaianaha Eruption: 1991-1992

  6. Episodes 50, 51, and 52, New Vents on the Flank of the "Old" Puu Oo Cone: 1992

  7. Episodes 51 and 53 Continue: 1993 - present

  8. Damage Caused by the Eruption

For a table that summarizes significant events and dates for the current eruption of Kilauea click here.

Other Lessons To VolcanoWorld