Active Hawaiian Volcanoes Summary

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Active and Potentially Active Hawaiian Volcanoes
Volcano Eruption type Last eruption Status
Loihi Lava 1996 (A.D.) active
Kilauea Lava, ash Ongoing since 1983 (A.D.) active
Mauna Loa Lava 1984 (A.D.) active
Hualalai Lava, ash 1800 to 01 (A.D.) dormant
Haleakala Lava, ash 1790 (A.D.) dormant
Mauna Kea Lava, ash 4,000 years ago dormant
Kohala Lava, ash 120,000 years ago exctinct ?
The information in this table is from (1) Wright and Pierson, 1992 (Living with Volcanoes, USGS Circular 1073); (2) Wolfe, E.W., Wise, S. W., and Dalrymple, B., 1997, The geology and petrology of Mauna Kea Volcano, Hawaii -- A study of postshield volcansim: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1557, p. 129; and (3) Garcia, Rubin, Norman, Rhodes, Graham, Muenow, and Spencer, 1998 (Petrology and geochronology of basalt breccia from the 1996 earthquake swarm of Loihi Seamount, Hawaii: Magmatic history of its 1996 eruption. Bull. Volcanol. vol. 59, p. 577-592).

    As you read this table you might wonder what it really means when a volcanologist classifies a volcano as "active", "dormant" or "extinct". The terms seem clear enough but the reality is often quite difficult to determine at some volcanoes, particularly those with very infrequent or poorly know eruptive histories. Extinct volcanoes where the last eruption was very long ago, and many times longer than the typical reccurence interval for different types of volcanic systems, can be safely regarded as extinct. These time periods are measured in hundereds of thousands of years. At the other end of the spectrum, it usually takes some humanly recorded or verifiable historical magmatic event to call a currently non-eruptive volcano "active". The terms "dormant" and "extinct" as commonly applied to Quaternary volcanoes are more imprecise because What determines this distinction is not a set period of time since last volcanic event. Instead, it is based on a relationship between the time since last eruption (or other known magmatic event such as intrusion or gas exhalation) and the frequency of eruptions before that last event. If the latter was changing with time (getting more or less frequent), this will affect our judgement of the potential for a fututre eruption. Or, if the eruptive history is poorly known, this will limit our ability to predict the probability of future activity. Ultimately there is often no simple yes or no answer for whether a compound volcano active at least once in the last 10,000-50,000 years is extinct or not. Instead it is a coin toss between calling a volcano dormant or extinct, so we try to provide as much additional information as possible with this assigned status so that other people can evaluate how certain we are of this assessment.


Kilauea: We refer you to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (US Geological Survey) website for on-line info about eruptive and seismic activity at Kilauea.
Loihi seamount This page at our site is updated more frequently during times of heightened activity than during times of relative quiessence.

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This page created and maintained by Ken Rubin©,
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Last page update on 4 Apr 2005