Historical Eruptions of Kilauea Volcano

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Summary of Eruptions


    Historical Eruptions at Kilauea volcano have occurred from both the summit caldera and from vents along the East Rift Zone. The historical record began with a very explosive phreatomagmatic eruption in 1790. After this, the volcano was almost continuously active, mostly showing gentle effusion from a lava lake at the summit until 1924, when it again erupted explosively. The period 1924 to 1955 saw mostly short-duration summit eruptions. From 1955 to the present Kilauea has seen mostly East Rift Zone activity interspersed with small summit eruptions. Two notable rift eruptions were Mauna Ulu (1969-1974) and Pu`u `O`o (1983-present).
    Kilauea's Eruption rate diminished steadily over the first half of the historic period but has been increasing again since 1924.
Year Date of Outbreak Duration (days) Location Volume
(cubic meters)
1750 (?) - - East rift 14,200,000
1790 (?) - - East rift 27,500,000
1790 November (?) - Caldera No lava flow
1823 Feb.-July Short Southwest rift 11,000,000
1832 Jan. 14 Short East rim of caldera (?)
1840 May 30 26 East rift 205,000,000
1868 April 2 Short Kilauea Iki (?)
1868 April 2 (?) Short Southwest rift 183,000
1877 May 4 1 (?) Caldera wall (?)
1877 May 21 (?) - Keanakakoi (?)
1884 Jan. 22 1 East rift (?)
1885 March 80 (?) Caldera (?)
1894 Mar. 21 6+ Caldera (?)
1894 July 7 4 (?) Caldera (?)
1918 Feb. 23 14 Caldera 183,000
1919 Feb. 7 294 Caldera 25,200,000 (?)
1919 Dec. 21 221 Southwest rift 45,300,000
1921 Mar. 18 7 Caldera 6,400,000
1922 May 28 2 Makaopuhi and Napau (?)
1923 Aug 25 (?) 1 East rift 73,000
1924 May 10 17 Caldera No lava
1924 July 19 11 Halemaumau 234,000
1927 July 7 13 Halemaumau 2,300,000
1929 Feb. 20 2 Halemaumau 1,400,000
1929 July 25 4 Halemaumau 2,600,000
1930 Nov. 19 19 Halemaumau 6,200,000
1931 Dec. 23 14 Halemaumau 7,000,000
1934 Sept. 6 33 Halemaumau 6,900,000
1952 June 27 136 Halemaumau 46,700,000
1954 May 31 3 Halemaumau and caldera 6,200,000
1955 Feb. 28 88 East rift 87,600,000
1959 Nov. 14 36 Kilauea Iki 37,200,000
1960 Jan. 13 36 East rift 113,200,000
1961 Feb. 24 1 Halemaumau 22,000
1961 Mar. 3 22 Halemaumau 260,000
1961 July 10 7 Halemaumau 12,600,000
1961 Sept. 22 3 East rift 2,200,000
1962 Dec. 7 2 East rift 310,000
1963 Aug. 21 2 East rift 800,000
1963 Oct. 5 1 East rift 6,600,000
1965 Mar. 5 10 East rift 16,800,000
1965 Dec. 24 <1 East rift 850,000
1967 Nov. 5 251 Halemaumau 80,300,000
1968 Aug. 22 5 East rift 130,000
1968 Oct. 7 15 East rift 6,600,000
1969 Feb. 22 6 East rift 16,100,000
1969 May 24 867 East rift 176,700,000
1971 Aug. 14 <1 Caldera 9,100,000
1971 Sept. 24 5 Caldera and southwest rift 7,700,000
1972 Feb. 4 455 East rift 119,600,000
1973 May 5 <1 East rift 1,200,000
1973 Nov. 10 30 East rift 2,700,000
1973 Dec. 12 203 East rift 28,700,000
1974 July 19 3 Caldera and east rift 6,600,000
1974 Sept. 19 <1 Caldera 10,200,000
1974 Dec. 31 <1 Southwest rift 14,300,000
1975 Nov. 29 <1 Caldera 220,000
1977 Sept. 13 18 East rift 32,900,000
1979 Nov. 16 1 East rift 580,000
1982 Apr. 31 <1 Caldera 500,000
1982 Sept. 25 <1 Caldera 3,000,000
1983 Jan. 3 on going East rift (Pu`u `O`o) on going

    Data for eruptions prior to 1960 are from Stearns and Macdonald, 1946. Data for eruptions from 1960 onward are from Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports. Data source: Volcanoes in the Sea, 2nd Ed. by Macdonald, Abbott and Peterson, University of Hawaii Press, 1983.
    Kilauea is a broad shield volcano built against the southeastern slope of Mauna Loa. The summit presently has a caldera that is roughly 4km by 3.2km wide, and walls of between 0 m and 120m high. Another feature, known as Halemaumau crater, lies within the main caldera (on the southwestern side). For the past century, Halemaumau has been the principal site of activity at Kilauea's summit. There has also been frequent activity along the Southeast rift zone (such as the presently active Pu'u 'O'o eruption, which started in 1983). While at nearby Mauna Loa eruptions tend to occur in pairs (i.e., a summit eruption followed by one on the flank), Kilauea's pattern of summit versus flank activity appear to be more random. However, evidence of numerous flank eruptions occurring after a summit eruption can be found.
    The thin pahoehoe flows that built Kilauea can be seen in the walls of the caldera. Pahoehoe flows predominate in that region because they are close to the vents in which they were issued. With the increasing distance from the caldera and rift zones, aa becomes more abundant, particularly nearer the coast.

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