Kīlauea's ongoing Puʻu ʻŌʻō eruption, which began in January 1983, ranks as the most voluminous outpouring of lava from the volcano's East Rift Zone in the past five centuries. By December 2012, flows had covered 125.5 km2 (48.4 mi2) with about 4 km3 (1 mi3) of lava, and had added 202 hectares (500 acres) of new land to Kīlauea's southeastern shore. Lava flows had also destroyed 214 structures, and resurfaced 14.3 km (8.9 mi) of highway, burying them with as much as 35 m (115 ft) of lava.
The eruption can be roughly divided in to five time periods. From 1983 to 1986, a series of short-lived lava fountains built a cinder-and-spatter cone later named Puʻu ʻŌʻō. In 1986, the eruption shifted 3 km (1.8 mi) northeastward along Kīlauea's east rift zone, where a nearly continuous outpouring of lava built a broad shield, Kupaianaha, and sent flows to the coast for more than five years.
In 1992, the eruption moved back uprift and new vents opened on the southwestern flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Over the next 15 years, nearly continuous effusion of lava from these vents sent flows to the ocean, mainly within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The most significant change during the 1992–2007 interval was a brief uprift fissure eruption and the corresponding collapse of Puʻu ʻŌʻō's west flank in January 1997.
In June 2007, an hours-long, unwitnessed eruption uprift of Puʻu ʻŌʻō led to renewed collapse within the cone and a brief hiatus in activity. When the eruption resumed in July 2007, new vents opened between Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Kupaianaha, sending flows to Kīlauea's southeastern coast until early 2011.
This activity was terminated by another short-lived eruption uprift of Puʻu ʻŌʻō in March 2011. Activity at Puʻu ʻŌʻō then resumed with a brief breakout from the western flank of the cone in August 2011, followed by the opening of a new, persistent vent on Puʻu ʻŌʻō's northeast flank in September 2011. Flows from this latter vent remained active on Kīlauea's southeastern flank as of December 2012.
1983-1986, Rise of Puʻu ʻŌʻō: Lava fountains build a cinder-and-spatter cone
| Lava fountains erupt from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent. (September 1983)
Kīlauea's ongoing Puʻu ʻŌʻō-Kupaianaha eruption began on January 3, 1983. For the first six months, fissures erupted intermittently between Nāpau Crater and Kalalua along the middle section of the volcanoâs east rift zone. In June 1983, the eruption became localized at a vent, later named Puʻu ʻŌʻō, which straddles the eastern boundary of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. For the next three years, Puʻu ʻŌʻō erupted approximately every three to four weeks, usually for less than 24 hours at a time. These eruptive episodes were characterized by spectacular lava
fountains that catapulted lava as high as 470 m (1,540 ft) above the vent.
Fallout from the towering lava fountains built a cinder-and-spatter cone 255 m (837 ft) high—more than twice the height of any other cone on Kīlauea's east rift zone. Most airborne fragments were blown downwind by prevailing trade winds, so the cinder and spatter were piled higher on the southwest side of the vent, forming a strikingly asymmetric cone.
The high fountains produced mainly ʻaʻā flows, the more viscous of the two types of Hawaiian lava. ʻAʻā flows erupted from Puʻu ʻŌʻō were typically 3â5 m (10â16 ft) thick and advanced at speeds of 50â500 m (160â1,640 ft) per hour, picking up speed and narrowing on steep slopes. Because of the short duration of each eruptive episode, none of the ʻaʻā flows reached the ocean or coastal highway. However, the flows posed an immediate threat to the sparsely populated Royal
Gardens subdivision located on a steep slope 6 km (3.7 mi) southeast of the vent. ʻAʻā flows, which reached the subdivision in as little as 13 hours during several eruptive episodes, destroyed 16 houses in 1983â1984.
1986-1992, Eruption shifts to Kupaianaha: Lava flows reach the sea
|Steam explosions often occur when lava enters the sea. (February 1988)
In July 1986, the vertical conduit leading to Puʻu ʻŌʻō ruptured and the eruption shifted to a new vent on Kīlauea's east rift zone, about 3 km (1.8 mi) northeast of Puʻu ʻŌʻō. This marked the end of episodic high fountaining and the beginning of five-and-a-half years of nearly continuous and relatively quiet effusion of lava. Frequent overflows from a lava pond that formed over the new vent built a broad, low shield, later named Kupaianaha, which reached a maximum height of 55 m (180 ft) in less than a year.
After weeks of continuous eruption, the main channel exiting the pond formed a lava
tube. A broad field of tube-fed pāhoehoe flows gradually spread down the flank of Kilauea toward the coast, 12 km (7.5 mi) southeast of Kupaianaha. These flows took three months to cover the same distance that ʻaʻā flows from Puʻu ʻŌʻō traveled in less than a day.
In early November 1986, flows were visible on the steep slope above the small community of Kapaʻahu, and the lava's leisurely pace was no longer reassuring. By the end of the month, flows erupted from Kupaianaha reached the ocean, cutting a swath through Kapaʻahu and closing the coastal highway. A few weeks later, the lava took a more easterly course and overran 14 homes on the northwest edge of Kalapana in a single day. Luckily for the rest of the village, this flow abruptly stagnated when the tube became blocked near the vent.
Over the next three years, lava destroyed homes on either side of the ever-widening flow field. Initially, the pāhoehoe flow path was strongly influenced by pre-eruption topography, but eventually, even high-ground areas were inundated by lava as tube-fed flows inflated around them. This occurred because pāhoehoe flows thicken from within, inflating as molten lava is intruded beneath the solid crust that forms as a flow surface cools and hardens.
From mid-1987 through 1989, most lava erupted from Kupaianaha flowed directly to the sea, often causing steam explosions. As the molten lava poured into the ocean, it shattered into small glassy fragments, which accumulated in protected downshore bays to form black sand beaches. New, albeit unstable, land was also added to the shoreline as lava built a series of deltas seaward over a steep submarine slope of fragmented lava (see When Lava Enters the Sea: Growth and Collapse of Lava Deltas).
The long-lived Kupaianaha tube system began to break down in the spring of 1989. As a result, surface
flows were a common occurrence, particularly on Pūlama pali, the steep slope above the coastal plain. These flows encroached on new territory, and eventually overran the Waha`ula Visitor Center and adjoining residences in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
In March 1990, the eruption entered its most destructive period of the 20th century when lava flows turned toward Kalapana, an area cherished for its historic sites and black sand beaches. By the end of the summer, the entire community, including a church, store, and 100 homes, were buried beneath 15-25 m (50-80 ft) of lava (see detailed
summary). As the lava flows advanced eastward, they took to the sea, replacing the palm-lined Kaimū Bay with a plain of lava that now extends 300 m (985 ft) beyond the original shoreline. In late 1990, a new lava tube finally diverted lava away from Kalapana and back into the National Park, where flows once again entered the ocean.
During the five-and-a-half years that Kupaianaha reigned, repeated collapses of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō conduit gradually enlarged the crater within the cone to about 300 m (985 ft) in diameter. A lava pond was sporadically present in this crater as early as 1987, but by 1990, it was present much of the time.
The volume of lava erupted from Kupaianaha steadily declined through 1991. Concurrently, the level of and activity in the Puʻu ʻŌʻō lava pond increased. In November 1991, fissures opened between Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Kupaianaha and erupted lava for three weeks. Kupaianaha continued to erupt during this event, but its output waned as time went on. By February 7, 1992, the Kupaianaha vent was dead.
1992-2007, Eruption returns to Puʻu ʻŌʻō: Vents open on the flanks of the cone
|Lava erupted from flank vents built a shield against the west side of Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone.
This shield continued to grow during subsequent episodes. (March 1992)
Ten days after Kupaianaha stopped erupting in February 1992, activity returned to Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Lava erupted in low fountains along a fissure on the west flank of the steep-sided cone. This was the first in a series of flank
vents that were active over the next 15 years. As at Kupaianaha, the style of the eruption was nearly continuous, quiet effusion of lava.
The new flank vent activity quickly built a lava
shield 45 m (150 ft) high and 1 km (0.6 mi) in diameter that banked against the western side of Puʻu ʻŌʻō.
In November 1992, lava again flowed downslope, crossed the Chain of Craters Road in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and entered the ocean at Kamoamoa, 11 km (7 mi) from Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Over the next month, tube-fed pāhoehoe flows buried the Kamoamoa archaeological site, a National Park campground and picnic area, and a black sand beach formed earlier when Kupaianaha lava flows entered the ocean. From the end of 1992 through January 1997, a series of lava
tubes carried lava to the ocean almost continuously, broadening the Kamoamoa flow field, which was mostly within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
Beginning in 1993, collapse pits appeared on the west side of Puʻu ʻŌʻō as lava erupted from the flank vents âerodedâ through tephra beneath the cone. By the end of 1996, the largest of the pits, the "Great
Pit", had engulfed most of Puʻu ʻŌʻōâs western flank.
On the night of January 30, 1997, Puʻu ʻŌʻō changed dramatically when magma drained from its conduit. First, the crater floor, and then, the west wall, of the cone collapsed. Shortly thereafter, new fissures broke open and erupted briefly in and near Nāpau Crater. The entire event was over in 24 hours.
The collapse created a large gap in the west side of the cone, and the floor of Puʻu ʻŌʻō dropped to form a rubble-lined crater 210 m (690 ft) deep. For the next 23 days, no active lava was visible at the eruption site. Then, on February 24, 1997, lava returned to the floor of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater. A month later, lava erupted outside the crater from new vents on the west and southwest flanks of the cone. Flows from these vents reached the ocean in July 1997 near the eastern boundary of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
As tubes carried lava to the ocean, down-cutting beneath the flank vents continued to remove support for the Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone. A new collapse pit, Puka
Nui, began to form on the southwest flank of the cone in December 1997.
On September 12, 1999, an earthquake swarm and summit deflation heralded the intrusion of magma in Kīlauea's upper east rift zone (see summary in eruption archive), the 7th such event to occur during this eruption. As magma was diverted into the upper east rift zone, the conduit to Puʻu ʻŌʻō was depressurized, and the normal supply of magma to the vent was interrupted for 11 days—the longest pause in activity since the hiatus following the 1997 cone collapse.
During the 11-day pause, the lava tube system became permanently blocked about 8 km (5 mi) from the coast, at an elevation of 533 m (1,750 ft). When the eruption resumed, surface flows broke out of the tube above the blockage, at 625 m (2,050 ft) elevation. For several weeks, persistent breakouts formed large perched ponds over the tube. Hundreds of short overflows from these ponds built a series of rootless shields, 5â20 m (16â65 ft) high and up to 500 m (1,640 ft) in diameter, that coalesced to form a prominent ridge along the axis of the tube.
At the same time, heightened activity occurred in and near the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater with active lava covering most of the crater floor, as well as the floor of Puka Nui. Spatter cones also formed both inside the crater and on the flanks of Puʻu ʻŌʻō.
Eventually, longer flows advanced down the pali, and lava again reached the ocean in mid-December 1999. Over the next two years, a series of lava tubes spread lava across the growing flow field and fed lava into the ocean most of the time.
By the end of 2001, however, the lower reaches of the tube system began to stagnate. The ocean entries soon died, and lava breakouts high on the tube increased. As in 1999, overflowing perched ponds built rootless shields along the burgeoning tube. By the end of March 2002, eight main shields had coalesced to form a continuous ridge, 2.7 km ( mi) long and up to 1.5 km ( mi) wide, between the 685- and 610-m (2250- and 2000-ft) elevations. A fantastic group of hornitos of all sizes formed over the tube in the first three months of 2002, with several reaching heights of 8-12 m (26-40 ft).
Early 2002 was also a period of heightened activity in and near the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater. Several spatter cones formed within Puʻu ʻŌʻō, Puka Nui and West Gap in April-May 2002.
Then, on May 12, 2002, a new flank vent opened on the west side of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, feeding flows down the western margin of the flow field and sparking the largest forest fire in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park in 15 years. As this "Mother's Day" flow relieved pressure in the complex magmatic plumbing system beneath Puʻu ʻŌʻō, activity in and near the crater died. The older tube, topped by hornitos and rootless shields, remained active through August, but its activity was much diminished after the Mother's Day flow began.
The Mother's Day flow reached the ocean near the end of Chain of Craters Road in July 2002. For the next year and a half, lava entered the ocean nearly continuously at several locations on the western side of the flow field. Activity on the lower reaches of the tube system then began to diminish, and by mid-November 2003, all surface flows from the Mother's Day tube were associated with rootless shield activity within 3 km (2 mi) of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone. Once again, spatter cones were active in the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater, Puka Nui, and West Gap.
In January 2004, lava flowed out of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater for the first time since 1998. Small flows briefly overtopped West Gap and the east rim of the crater on three occasions. A few days later, on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, four new vents opened on the south side of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, producing a short-lived, but spectacular, flow. For the rest of the year, additional vents, collectively known as âMLKâ vents, opened in the same area, intermittently producing spatter and small lava flows.
After the MLK vents opened, activity in Puʻu ʻŌʻōâs crater diminished, but then resumed in early February 2004. This heightened activity culminated in another major breakout—the Prince Kuhio Kalaniana`ole (PKK) flows—on the southwest side Puʻu ʻŌʻō in March 2004. By August 2004, the PKK lava tube became dominant, replacing the Mother's Day tube, and remained active for the next three years, sending lava to the ocean at several locations in the National Park.
The PKK tube also fed the East Laeâapuki ocean entry, which was active for 22 months—one of the longest-lived ocean entries of the Puʻu ʻŌʻōâKupaianaha eruption—and built a large delta with a surface area of 23 hectares (57 acres). On November 28, 2005, the East Lae`apuki ocean entry became the site of the largest delta collapse during this eruption when an estimated surface area of 17.8 hectares (44 acres) collapsed into sea.
In mid-October 2005, subsidence became the main activity at Puʻu ʻŌʻō. Over a period of several days, the entire southern part of the crater subsided, claiming several cones on the crater floor, as well as part of the south rim of the crater. In early November, renewed subsidence caused the formation of a shallow trough across the south side of the crater and further slumping of the south crater wall.
A year later, in October 2006, renewed, but less extensive, subsidence again occurred on the south side of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater. Collapse of the crater floor also triggered additional subsidence of slump blocks on the south rim of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, which dropped several meters (yards). This period of collapse culminated with the collapse of two West Gap cones, leaving a pit with a talus-covered floor. Thereafter, Puʻu ʻŌʻō remained active, but relatively quiet, through mid-2007.
2007-2011, Another downrift shift: Eruption builds a shield between Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Kupaianaha and sends lava flows down Kīlauea's south flank
|Lava erupted from the July 21, 2007 vents created a perched lava channel that carried flows briefly toward the northeast. (October 2007)
Father's Day event: On June 17, 2007, an intrusion of magma into the upper east rift zone of Kīlauea depressurized the magma reservoir beneath Puʻu ʻŌʻō. As a result, the floor of Puʻu ʻŌʻō collapsed to form a rubble-filled crater about 80 m (260 ft) deep, severing the supply of lava into the PKK lava tube, active since 2004. The intrusion culminated with a brief eruption on the east flank of Kāne Nui O Hamo cone on June 19. The volcano then entered a hiatus, during which there was no eruptive activity at the surface.
After two-weeks of quiet, the eruption resumed at Puʻu ʻŌʻō on July 1, when lava began to refill the crater. Starting on July 8, effusion waned as the crater began to uplift in a piston-like fashion. The uplift was superimposed on, and eventually superceded, infilling of the crater, which reached to within 30 m (100 ft) of the eastern rim of Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater by mid-July.
July 21 event (Episode 58): The uplift, an indication of pressure building beneath Puʻu ʻŌʻō, ended on July 21 when an erupting fissure opened on the east flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō and propagated eastward toward Kupaianaha. This activity, which marked the onset of Episode 58 of Kīlauea's ongoing east rift zone eruption, eventually focused over the eastern end of the fissure, producing a series of short-lived channelized ʻaʻā flows that reached up to 6 km (3.7 mi) to the northeast.
In late August, the open lava channel feeding the ʻaʻā flows began to overflow its banks, resulting in the progressive development of a âperchedâ lava channel, described as such because it was elevated above the surrounding terrain. It eventually stood 45 m (148 ft) above the older lava surface on which it was built.
TEB diversion: The perched lava channel fed short flows through the end of 2007, but its dominance ended on November 21, when the Thanksgiving Eve breakout (TEB) diverted most lava to the southeast before it could reach the channel. A low lava shield developed over the TEB vent, and, by the end of December 2007, a series of rootless shields had grown on the southeast flank of the TEB shield.
The perched channel was eventually abandoned in early 2008, as rootless shields continued to build along the trace of the developing TEB tube system. In January and February, flank collapses on three rootless shields released relatively fast-moving, but short-lived, ʻaʻā flows that threatened the beleaguered Royal Gardens subdivision. In late February, several abandoned Royal Gardens structures were destroyed as lava flows finally began advancing down Kīlauea's south flank toward the coast.
Ocean entry established: Lava advanced quickly across the coastal plain and reached the ocean near Waikupanaha on March 5—the first lava flow to enter the ocean in almost nine months. Within weeks, a relatively stable tube system developed, feeding lava to the Waikupanaha ocean entry almost continuously for the next 22 months. The Waikupanaha delta remained fairly small, however, due to frequent collapses, some of which were accompanied by rock blasts that tossed blocks up to 275 m (900 ft) inland.
In late June and early July 2008, a short-lived surge in effusion led to spectacular surface flows, low lava fountains from the tops of several of the TEB rootless shields, and littoral fountains at the ocean entry.
Then, in early October 2008, breakouts from the TEB tube developed into a new western tube branch that fed lava flows down the west side of the TEB flow field. These flows destroyed a few more structures in Royal Gardens. Lava then slowly spread across the coastal plain, forming a broad, inflated flow field and feeding several short-lived ocean entries west of Waikupanaha.
These surface flows and ocean entries stalled in mid-July 2009 when a series of persistent breakouts near the top of Royal Gardens captured the lava previously moving downslope through tubes. Several more abandoned structures within the subdivision were destroyed. The tube supplying lava to the Waikupanaha entry was not affected.
The Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater grew slightly in 2009 due to several small rim collapses, and continued as the main east rift degassing source. The crater, with a maximum depth of around 90â100 m (295â330 ft) below the east rim, was floored by rubble.
At the end of 2009, a brief pause in the eruption led to the eventual demise of the long-lived Waikupanaha ocean entry on January 4, 2010. Active for 22 months, Waikupanaha is matched in duration only by the 2005â2007 East Laeâapuki ocean entry.
The eruption resumed on January 6, 2010, sending lava back through Royal Gardens along the west side of the Episode 58 flow field and onto the coastal plain. This flow crossed into the National Park, but stagnated before reaching the ocean as new breakouts started upslope.
In March, lava advanced slowly downhill again, this time along the eastern edge of the Episode 58 flow field, where it covered the end of Highway 130. By late April, this flow had reached the ocean at KÄ«, forming a new entry that was active until June 2, when the lava tube was drained by more breakouts upslope.
Lava flows enter Kalapana again: In July, lava marched down the east margin of the Episode 58 flow field once again, and began to fill in a low area west of the Kalapana Gardens subdivision, destroying a residence on July 25.
Fortunately, by the end of July, flows were diverted away from the subdivision—for a while—as lava again reached the ocean, forming the ʻIliʻili and Puhi-o-Kalaikini entries. Small breakouts upslope of the buried trace of Highway 130 from August through November resulted in the destruction of another Kalapana Gardens residence on November 27, 2010.
Two days later, a breakout above the pali cut off the flows threatening Kalapana Gardens and terminated the ocean entry. But, by mid-December, lava reoccupied the Quarry tube system and flows once again reached the coastal plain.
In early 2011, these flows encroached on the Kalapana Gardens subdivision, where another residence was destroyed on January 17—the 213th structure destroyed by lava since Kīlauea's east rift zone eruption began in 1983. Flows also reached the ocean, forming short-lived ocean entries in January and February.
Sporadically active vents erupted within the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater through 2010, with lava flows pooling on the crater floor. Spatter cones atop the vents formed high points on low lava shields building up on the crater floor.
At the end of 2010, the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater floor was about 53 m (175 ft) below the east rim of the crater. By March 3, 2011, however, lava infilling had raised the crater floor to only 20 m (65 ft) below the lowest point on the east rim. But then, things changed.
March 2011, Beginning of a new eruptive period
|Lava erupting from the Kamoamoa fissure on March 8, 2011. The fissure extended 2.3 km (1.4 mi) from Puʻu ʻŌʻō (background) to near Nāpau Crater (foreground).
On March 5, 2011, following rapid summit deflation and increased seismic tremor, the floor of Puʻu ʻŌʻō began to collapse. Within a few hours, the crater floor had dropped 115 m (380 ft).
Shortly thereafter, lava broke to the surface between Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Nāpau Crater, marking the start of Episode 59—the Kamoamoa fissure eruption.
It began as a single 100-m- (300-ft-) long fissure, with lava fountains erupting as high as 20 m (65 ft). Over the next 12 hours, the eruptive fissure propagated to the northeast and southwest, eventually reaching a length of about 2.3 km (1.4 mi), with activity shifting between eastern and western fissure segments, and fountains reaching heights of 25-30 m (80-100 ft).
The Kamoamoa fissure eruption cut the lava supply to the TEB tube, and by March 7, the scattered surface flows that were active upslope from Kalapana Gardens had stalled. This marked the end of Episode 58.
The Kamoamoa eruption soon focused on the two ends of the fissure system, building small cinder and spatter cones. While fountaining from the eastern end of the fissure fed only shorts flows, fountains on the western end constructed perched lava pond and fed a fast-moving channelized ʻaʻā flow that traveled to the southeast.
By the morning of March 9, the ʻaʻā flow had reached the western edge of the 2002-2004 Mother's Day flow field, 2.9 km (1.8 mi) downslope and continued to advance. But that night, around 10:30 p.m., the fissure eruption ceased, and Episode 59 was over.
Following the Kamoamoa fissure eruption, Kīlauea's east rift zone was quiet for just over two weeks. On March 26, lava returned to Puʻu ʻŌʻō, where a perched lava lake formed on the crater floor. Overflows from the lava lake filled the crater slowly over the next several months.
Then, starting in late June 2011, the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater floor began to be uplifted in a piston-like fashion reminiscent of a similar uplift event in July 2007. Soon, the surface of the lava lake, confined by levees, was poised higher than the crater's eastern rim.
On August 3, the crater suddenly collapsed as lava burst through the western flank of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone, feeding a flood of lava that advanced toward the southwest. The flow slowed dramatically within hours, but remained active until mid-August. As in March 2011, lava reappeared in Puʻu ʻŌʻō within days of the August breakout. This time, however, the crater filled unusually quickly. By September 10, lava was overflowing both the northeast and southwest sides of the crater.
The filling ended on September 21, when a new fissure erupted high on the northeast flank of Puʻu ʻŌʻō. This fissure sent flows, once again, toward Kīlauea's southeast coast, where they briefly entered the ocean in December 2011. Output from the new fissure—named the "Peace Day" vent—was relatively low, however, and 2012 was characterized by weak, but persistent, surface flows that made little forward progress across the coastal plain.
Finally, in November 2012, lava reached the ocean for the first time in nearly 11 months—the eruption's longest interval to date without an ocean entry. The entry was weak, however, producing a small plume only sporadically through the end of 2012, and into the beginning of 2013.
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