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Halemaumau, a pit crater, is a well known feature in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The floor of Kilauea Caldera surrounds Halemaumau. The caldera wall is in the distance. Photo by Dorian Weisel, U.S. Geological Survey, June 3, 1990.

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There are a large numbers of volcanic landforms in the national park that are common on shield volcanoes and on volcanic landscapes made of basaltic lava. Fortunately, most of these landforms are easily recognizable and have descriptive names. The best way to learn these features is to use the photographs and list of definitions below. The photos are supplemented with figures and maps.

A caldera is a "large, basin-shaped volcanic depression, more or less circular ... the diameter of which is many times greater than that of the included vent or vents" (Bates and Jackson, 1980). Kilauea caldera is at the summit of Kilauea Volcano and has a diameter of 2 by 3 miles (4.5 km by 3 km). The caldera has been slowly filling by episodic eruptions since 1790.

Aerial view of the summit of Kilauea Volcano. Halemaumau Crater, near the center of the photo, is the main vent inside Kilauea Caldera and is 0.6 miles (1 km) in diameter. The light-colored areas near the crater are mineral deposits that precipitated from gases. The dark lava flow to the east (just below) of the crater erupted in 1982. The road around the perimeter of the caldera is Crater Rim Drive. Jaggar Museum and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are located on Uwekahuna bluff, 470 feet (145 m) above the caldera floor, and can be seen in the upper right of the slide. Kilauea Iki Crater is on the bottom near the center. The buildings near the north rim of the caldera (right margin of the photo) are Kilauea Visitor Center (Park Headquarters) and the Volcano House Hotel. Volcano Village is at the bottom right corner of the photo. Note the change from forest to desert. Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, January 10, 1985.

Mokuaweoweo caldera is at the summit of Mauna Loa Volcano. The caldera is 2.7 miles long by 1.6 miles wide (4.3 by 2.5 km). This photo is a view across Mokuaweoweo Caldera looking to the north. Immediately north and south of the caldera are pit craters, appropriately named North Pit and South Pit. Photograph by Jack Lockwood, U.S. Geological Survey, December 1, 1981.

Mokuaweoweo Caldera can also be seen from space. The Island of Hawaii is made up of five volcanoes: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. This space shuttle photograph shows the characteristic features of each volcano. On the north flank of Kohala Volcano, just to the west (right) of the clouds, lies deeply eroded Pololu Valley. Light colored glacial deposits cap the summit of Mauna Kea Volcano. The 1800-1801 lava flows are clearly visible on the northeast rift of Hualalai Volcano. Historical lava flows drape the northeast and southwest rift zones of Mauna Loa Volcano. Most of Kilauea Volcano is obscured by clouds, except for the southwest rift zone. Courtesy of NASA and the Hawaii Space Grant College, University of Hawaii.

This color infrared space shuttle photograph shows Mauna Loa and Kilauea Volcanoes. Mauna Loa's Mokuaweoweo Caldera is to the left of center. The northeast and southwest rift zones are the source of the historical lava flows. Hilo Bay is at the top right. The summit of Kilauea is obscured by clouds. Historical lava flows of its southwest rift zone are just below the center. Aa lava flows from the early episodes of the Puu Oo eruption are visible near the right center. Notice the small plume from the on-going eruption. Courtesy of NASA and the Hawaii Space Grant College, University of Hawaii.

A pit crater is a "crater formed by the sinking in of the surface; not primarily a vent for lava" (Macdonald and Abbott, 1977, p. 419). The upper segment of the east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano is defined by several pit craters. Most of these pit craters can be seen along the Chain of Craters Road. Makaopuhi Crater, shown in this photo, is 1 mile by 0.6 mile (1.5 km by 1 km) and is about 500 feet (150 m) deep. Lava flows from the Mauna Ulu eruption (1969-1974) are at the upper right. This pit crater is estimated to be 500 years old (J.P. Lockwood, personal communication, 1979, in Hazlett, 1990). Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, January 10, 1985.

In Hawaii, a rift zone is a "zone of volcanic features associated with underlying dike complexes" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 538). Magma leaves a storage area beneath the summit of the volcano and intrudes the rift zone at a depth of 0.6-3 miles (1 to 5 km). The intrusions are vertical and tabular, typically 5-10 feet (2-3 m) in width and 1.2 miles (2 km) in height. These planar, tabular-shaped intrusions of liquid magma are called dikes. They are also called dikes after the magma solidifies. The intrusion of magma causes the volcano to grow laterally. Intrusions can also cause cracking at the surface. This photograph is an aerial view of the southwest rift zone of Kilauea Volcano. The view is to the northeast. Crater Rim Drive is near the top of the slide. The darker lava flows are from the September 1971 eruption. The brown tephra seen within the cracks is from the explosive eruption of 1790. The cracks develop as magma passes beneath the surface, causing the surface to extend. Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, March 4, 1985.

A cinder cone is a "conical hill formed by the accumulation of cinders and other pyroclasts, normally of basaltic and andesitic composition" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 112). Cinders are a type of pyroclastic material. Puu Puai, shown in this photo, is a cinder cone that formed during the 1959 eruption at Kilauea Iki Crater. Gas leaving the magma propelled incandescent cinder and ash as high as 1,900 feet (580 m) above the vent. Tradewinds blew the tephra to the southwest, where it accumulated to form the cinder cone. Puu Puai is visible from Crater Rim Drive and from Devastation Trail. Photograph by T.J. Takahashi, U.S. Geological Survey, September 22, 1984.

Puu Oo is a cinder and spatter cone created by fountaining eruptions from 1983-1986. Cinder can be seen falling from a Puu Oo lava fountain in this photo. Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, June 30, 1984.

A spatter cone is a "low, steep-sided cone of spatter built up on a fissure or vent; it is usually of basaltic material" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 598). Spatter is globs of lava thrown through the air. The spatter cone in this photo formed during the April 30, 1982, eruption near Halemaumau Crater. Numerous spatter cones formed along a 0.3 mile (0.5 km) fissure that was active for 20 hours. These spatter cones can be visited by walking beyond the Halemaumau Crater overlook to the intersection of Halemaumau and Byron's Ledge trails . Photograph by T.T. English, U.S. Geological Survey, April 30, 1982.

A spatter rampart is a " ridge of congealed pyroclastic material, usually basaltic, built up on a fissure or vent" (Takahashi and Griggs, 1987). Pyroclastic refers to fragmented volcanic material ejected from a volcano. A vent is an opening at the Earth's surface through which volcanic material is extruded. The spatter rampart shown in this photo was the principal vent of the 1984 eruption on the northeast rift zone of Mauna Loa Volcano. Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, March 26, 1984.

A littoral cone is a "cone formed on a lava flow when it runs into a body of water, usually the sea. Such cones are the result of steam explosions that hurl into the air large amounts of ash, lapilli, and small bombs derived from the new lava" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 365). During the Kupaianaha eruption, lava tubes advanced to the coastal area of the park and dumped lava into the ocean. The resulting steam explosions generated spatter rampart, limu o Pele, and Pele's hair that accumulated on the sea cliff to make a littoral cone. This photo shows a littoral cone that formed in October 1988. Lava from the tube added new land, extending the coastline and isolating the littoral cone. Subsequent slumping of the new land produced the low fault scarp in front of the cone. Fresh lava flows covered the down-dropped area. The yellow areas near the cone are covered by sulfur that precipitated from volcanic gases. Photograph by J.D. Griggs, U.S. Geological Survey, October 5, 1988.

A perched lava pond is an "impounded body of pahoehoe lava whose margins consist of chilled lava-flow fronts or spatter ramparts formed earlier in the same or previous eruption. The surface of the pond is thus retained at a higher (perched) level one or more meters above the surrounding surface" (Takahashi and Griggs, 1987). This photo shows a lava pond on the north flank of the Mauna Ulu satellite shield on the upper east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano. The diameter of the pond is 425 ft (130 m). Park visitors can see this perched lava pond by walking one mile (1.6 km) on the Napau Crater trail and climbing Puu Huluhulu, a prehistoric cinder cone. Photo by Steve Mattox, 1995.

A lava tube is a "hollow space beneath the surface of a solidified lava flow, formed by the withdrawal of molten lava after the formation of the surficial crust" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 353). Nahuku (Thurston) lava tube is on Crater Rim Drive and visited by millions of park visitors every year. The lava tube is up to 13 ft (4 m) in height and about one mile in length. The lava tube developed about 400 years ago and carried lava away from a vent near the present location of Kilauea Iki Crater. Photograph by T.J. Takahashi, U.S. Geological Survey, September 7, 1984.

A tumulus is a "doming or small mound on the crust of a lava flow, caused by pressure due to the difference in rate of flow between cooler crust and more fluid lava below. Unlike a lava blister ... it is a solid structure" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 669). The tumulus shown in this photo is on the south flank of Kilauea Volcano. Photograph by Janet Babb, June, 1990. Used with permission.

A fissure is a "surface of fracture or a crack in rock along which there is a distinct separation" (Bates and Jackson, 1980). A fissure eruption is an "eruption that takes place from an elongate fissure rather from a central vent" (Bates and Jackson, 1980). The fissure in this photograph was a vent for an early episode of the Puu Oo eruption. Lava trees are prominent on the horizon. Spatter covers the ground adjacent to the fissure. Lava within the fissure is red, due to oxidation. Photograph by C. Neal, June 25, 1983, U.S. Geological Survey.

A fault is a surface along which rocks slide past one another. A fault scarp is a "steep-slope or cliff formed directly by movement along a fault and representing the exposed surface of the fault before modification by erosion and weathering" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 224). The motion of faults is described in a relative sense. The hanging wall is the "overlying side of an orebody, fault, or mine working; esp. the wall rock above an inclined vein or fault" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 283). The footwall is the "underlying side of a fault ... esp. the wall rock beneath an inclined fault" (Bates and Jackson, 1980, p. 241).

For most of the surface faults on Kilauea, the hanging wall has moved down relative to the footwall to produce a normal fault. Normal faults are common in areas that are undergoing extension. The fault scarps of the Hilina fault system are the major landforms in the coastal area of the park. These fault scarps are as high as 1,600 feet (490 m), resulting of seaward movement of unsupported rocks over thousands of years. Halape is on the coast along the right margin of the photo. Photograph by D.A. Swanson, June 24, 1971, U.S. Geological Survey.

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