Previous Pu`u `O`o Eruption Episodes of Kilauea Volcano
(episode 54 - Napau Crater)
Lava flows from episode 54 fissure E in Napau Crater came right up to
the edge of the forest. Photo taken by Ken Rubin on 24 May 1997, some
4 months after the eruption.
30 Jan-17 Feb 1997: Activity initiates and then dies at Napau Crater --
then Kilauea goes silent
Is this the end of the 14-year long Pu`u `O`o eruption?
This page contains update information from Episode 54 of the Pu`u `O`o
eruption of Kilauea Volcano. Please see the
eruption update page for more recent activity at Kilauea, including the second half of Episode 55
The newest episode of activity of the Pu`u `O`o eruption began on Jan. 30
at about 2:43 AM in Napau Crater, about 4 km uprift from the main site of
venting over the last 5 years at the Pu`u `O`o cone. The "Pu`u `O`o" eruption
originally started in 1983 at Napau Crater and has now returned to this
site. This newest event is being called "episode 54" by the staff of
This area of Kilauea is fairly remote, so we are fortunate to have reports from campers near the area, who heard hissing sounds and saw an orange glow
from the crater, helping to establish the time of the start of the eruption.
Below is a chronology of events in this new phase of activity. You will also
find maps of Napau Crater showing the new lava flows and a map of Kilauea's
East Rift Zone giving the spatial relationship between this and previous
activity in the Pu`u `O`o eruption.
Precursor events: Jan 29.
Harmonic tremor was recorded on seismograph near the
new eruption site for ~7 1/2 hours.
The tremor was accompanied by deflation of the summit of Kilauea (17
microradians), which lasted about 8 hours. Deflation of the summit has
continued to 21 microradians. This large deflation of the summit magma
reservoir is thought to indicate that a large volume of magma has been
intruded into the east rift zone of the volcano to fed this eruption.
FIG. 1 Napau crater is shown in the image below. The orange areas
represent very recent flow activity, with letters A-F indicating individual
short-lived vents from which lava poured.
- 2:43 AM- Three fissures (A, B and C on the figure) form within and just
east of the crater producing lava fountains a 10's m high.
- 7:16 AM- All three fissures stop producing lava but continue spattering
intermittently. The flows from these fissures have covered 48 acres.
- 12:39 PM- A new fissure (D) forms just east of fissure C and produces a new
- 4:39 PM- Another fissure (E) forms just east of fissure D and also produces
- 6:40 PM; fountaining has stopped at fissure D and E but harmonic tremor
continues. Total acres covered by the flows from these two vents is only 14.5.
- 8:43 PM- fountaining resume on a new fissure (F) on the west rim of Napau
- 12:33 AM- Fountaining stops at the F fissure; 3 acres are covered by the
flow from this fissure.
- 7:00 AM- The Pu`u `O`o eruption is quiet for now but it is expected to restart at
anytime. The backcountry to the eruption site has been closed by the
National Park Service as has the chain of craters road.
and National Park Service staff anxiously await the next movements of Pele.
- Reports from the field indicate no new lava flow activity or spattering
from the new vents.
- Seismicity at the eruption site has returned to background levels and
deflation of the summit has stopped.
- Gas samples were collected from the episode 54 vents and the location
of the new flow margins and fissures were mapped by the
HVO staff today.
- Officially, episode 54 of the Pu`u `O`o eruption is over (all 'pau' in
Hawaiian). However, a large volume of magma was intruded during episode 54
from the summit of Kilauea into the east rift zone based on a deflation of
the summit of about 30 microradian. It has been estimated that a
microradian might represent ~330,000 cubic meters of magma (Dzurisin et al.,
1984, J. Vol. Geotherm. Res., v. 21, 1994). Thus, about 10 million cubic
meters of magma may have been intruded into the rift during episode 54.
This is about a month's supply of magma given the typical eruption
rate for the Pu`u `O`o eruption.
- An uneasy quiet remains as we await the next episode of this 14 year eruption. Signs indicate that the rift zone is re-inflating, so a renewed
surface eruption is not out of the possibility. However, whether it
re-occupies the Pu`u `O`o vent, the short-lived Napau Crater vent, a different
vent, or even a new vent is something volcanologists at Kilauea are hesitant
to speculate about. Time will tell.
- The volcano is still quiet. Scientists haven't given up hope for a
renewal of activity at Kilauea but the prospect grows dimmer with each
passing week of inactivity. On the bright side, the Honolulu newspaper
reported yesteday that air quality on the Kona side of the Big Island has
improved drastically. The volcano's output of noxious SO2 gas has
decreased by a factor of 10 since the volcano went quiet (from about
200,000 lbs/day to about 20,000 lbs/day). It has been estimated that
during the Pu`u `O`o eruption, Kilauea hs been the largest point
source of atmospheric contamination in Hawaii.
Photo of low fountains and volcanic fume from fissue E in Napau Crater
during episode 54. Photo taken from the air on Jan. 30, 1997 by Laszlo
Keszthelyi. Used with permission of the U. S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian
What about the Pu`u `O`o Vent?
While this activity was occurring at Napau crater, the Pu`u `O`o cone was
collapsing and the crater within it became ~100 m deeper. By 11 AM, the
crater was ~200 m below the rim of the cone and was continuing to collapse,
producing plumes of red dust that rose 800 m into the air in the process.
Lava has stopped moving through the lava tube downhill from the Pu`u `O`o cone.
Jan-Feb 1997, Recent Activity at Kilauea
This map shows the Kilauea East Rift Zone and the surface
flow activity since 1983. Since 1992, surface flow activity has been
restricted to the western 1/3 of the overall flow region (shown in the wine
color). Napau crater and the very recent flow activity is also shown (in
This synopsis was written by Mike Garcia and Ken Rubin using information
kindly provided by:
The U.S.Geological Survey's Hawaii Volcano Observatory (formal press
releases from this source were based upon the work of a great number of
individuals including those listed below;
the information on this web page was modified for consumption by
the general public and non-volcano specialists)
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The
The US Geological
Survey-Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has provided much of the factual
material contained in the reports above, but is not directly responsible for
editorial changes or enhancements made by the HCV (the Hawaii Center for
Volcanology) web staff, nor does it claim responsiblity in any way for the interpretive content of these pages.
has a new website presently under construction where some of this
information will one day be available. In addition to this site,
Dr. Gerard Fryer of SOEST also maintains a second web site (as a service to
HVO) where the "HVO Volcano Watch" newsletter is posted.
Many details about Kilauea volcano can be found there.
- Don Swanson
- Carl Thornber
- Dave Sherrod
- Frank Trusdale
- James Kauahikaua
- Laszlo Keszthelyi
This page created and maintained by
Other credits for this web site.
Last page update on 23 Mar 1998