Volcanic History of Kilauea

[Kilauea Home] [Historical Eruptions] [Longer Volcanic History]


    Kilauea volcano, on the southernmost Island of Hawaii, is one of the most active on Earth. It predominantly erupts basaltic lava in effusive eruptions, although occasionally it experiences explosive eruptions as well. Kilauea sits on the southeasten side of the Big Island of Hawaii, resting on the

Volcanoes on the 
Big Island with Kilauea highlighted
flanks of it's larger neighbor volcano Manua Loa (see map at right). Kilauea stands just under 4200 feet tall at it's highest point. Kilauea has a 165m deep circular caldera at its summit that measures 3x5km (or 6x6 km, including the outermost ring faults). It is said that Kilauea is the home to Pele, the volcano goddess of ancient Hawaiian legends.
    The current eruption of Kilauea on the east rift zone is called the Pu`u `O`o Eruption. It started in Jan. 1983 and reached it 35th year of activity on 3 January 2018!
    By January 2000 it had produced 1.9 km3of lava, covered 102 km2 of landscape, and added 205 hectares to Kilauea's southern shore. In the process, lava flows unfortunately destroyed 181 houses and resurfaced 13 km of highway with as much as 25 m of lava. It has also destroyed a the National Park visitor center and a 700 year-old Hawaiian temple ("Waha'ula heiau"). There are no signs that the current eruption is slowing or will come to an end anytime soon.
    Kilauea shares the Hawaiian hot spot with its larger active sibling Mauna Loa and with Loihi seamount. You can view a schematic representation of the geometry of this situation HERE If you would like to learn more about how the Hawaiian islands formed from a single mantle hotspot, visit the Formation of the Hawaiian Islands web page at this site.

    Summary of historical eruptions: visit our Kilauea eruption history page.

Want to learn something about Kilauea during the 19th century? Visit our on line version of the book "Life in Hawaii", by Titus Coan. This book, first published in 1882, describes the author's observations of active volcanism on the Big Island during the 19th century. It is being made available to users of this site by Edward Coan, Titus' great-great-grandson. In particular, chapters dealing with Halemaumau and specific eruptions at Kilauea might be of particular interest.
[ 1840 | 1868 | Halemaumau]

    We encourage you to take some of the 'virtual' field trips of Kilauea's summit and the Chain of Craters road that are available on SOEST's internet site through the NASA Virtually Hawaii Project

Some reading about Kilauea

If you have a publication you would like to see added to this list, please contact the webmaster

1964 Richter, D. H. et al., The 1961 eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. U.S.Geol. Survey Prof. Paper 474-D, Chapter 17, 34p.
1979 Johnson, G. R., Porosity and density of Kilauea Volcano basalts, Hawaii, U.S.Geol. Survey Professional Paper 1123-B 6p.
1987 Wolfe et al., The Pu`u `O`o eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Phases 1-20. In: U.S.Geol. Survey Prof. Paper 1350, Chapter 17, 471-508.
1988 Wolfe, editor, Episodes 1-20, U.S.Geol. Survey Professional Paper 1463 (this volumes covers most aspects of the early part of this eruption).
1990 Hoffmann et al., Geometry of the Pu`u `O`o magma reservoir, Bulletin of Volcanology, 52, 522-531.
1991 Heliker and Wright, The Pu`u `O`o-Kupaianaha eruption of Kilauea. EOS, 72, 521-530.
1992 Garcia et al., Petrology of lavas from episodes 2-47. Bulletin of Volcanology, 55, 1-16.

Realmuto et al., Thermal infrared mapping of 1988 lava flow. Bulletin of Volcanology, 55, 33-44.

1993 Mattox et al., Development of the 1990 Kalapana lava flow field. Bulletin of Volcanology, 55, 407-413.

Delaney et al., Ground motion during the eruption, 1983-1991. Journal of Geophysical Research, 98, 17801-17820.

1994 Dvorak, An earthquake cycle along the south flank of Kilauea. Journal of Geophysical Research, 99, 9533-9541.

Parfitt and Wilson, Dike geometry and eruption mechanics for a long-lived eruption. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 59, 179-205.

Hon et al., Emplacement and inflation of pahoehoe sheet flows. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 106, 351-370.

Delaney, P.T. et al., Motion of Kilauea Volcano during sustained eruption from the Puu Oo and Kupaianaha vents, 1983-1991, U.S. Geol. Survey Open-file Report 94-567.

1995 Mangan et al., Episode 49 of the Pu`u `O`o - Kupaianaha eruption of Kilauea volcano: breakdown of a steady-state eruptive era. Bulletin of Volcanology, 57, 127-135.

Parfitt et al., Factors influencing the height of Hawaiian lava fountains. Bulletin of Volcanology, 57, 440-450.

Wallace and Delaney, Deformation of Kilauea volcano during 1982-1983, a transition period. Journal of Geophysical Research, 100, 8201-8219.

Wilson et al. Explosive volcanic eruptions: The role magma recycling in controlling the behavior of Hawaiian style lava fountains. Geophysics J. International, 121, 215-225.

1996 Kauahikaua et al., A quantitative look at the demise of a basaltic vent--Death of the Kupaianaha vent. Bulletin of Volcanology, 57,

Garcia et al., Petrology and geochemistry of lavas from 1986-1992. Bulletin of Volcanology, 58, 359-379.

1997 Denlinger, A dynamic balance between magma supply and eruption rate at Kilauea volcano. Journal of Geophysical Research, 102, B8, 18091- 18100.
1998 Garcia et al., Crustal contamination of Kilauea magmas revealed by oxygen isotope analyses of glass and olivine from Pu`u `O`o eruption lavas. J. Petrology..
1999 Lockwood et al., Magma migration and resupply during the 1974 summit eruptions of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai┬┤i,U.S.Geol. Survey Report 1613, 37p

Pietruszka, A.J. and Garcia, M.O., The size and shape of Kilauea Volcano's summit magma storage reservoir: a geochemical probe, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 167, 311-320.

2001 Pietruszka, A.J., Rubin, K.H. and Garcia, M.O., 226Ra-230Th-238U disequilibria of historical Kilauea lavas (1790-1982) and the dynamics of mantle melting within the Hawaiian plume., Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 186, 15-31.


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