Hawaiian Volcano 


The Probability of Lava Inundation at the Proposed and Existing Kulani Prison Sites

J. Kauahikaua, F. Trusdell, and C. Heliker 1

USGS Open-File Report 98-794

1U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hawaii National Park, HI 96718-0051

This report is preliminary and has not been reviewed for conformity with the U.S. Geological Survey editorial standards (or with the North American Stratigraphic Code). Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.




Site-specific Recurrence

Prabability of Lava Inundation

Estimated Lava Flow Dynamics

Terrain Analyses - Computation of Lavasheds

Conclusion and Recommendations




The State of Hawai`i has proposed building a 2,300-bed medium-security prison about 10 km downslope from the existing Kulani medium-security correctional facility. The proposed and existing facilities lie on the northeast rift zone of Mauna Loa, which last erupted in 1984 in this same general area. We use the best available geologic mapping and dating with GIS software to estimate the average recurrence interval between lava flows that inundate these sites. Three different methods are used to adjust the number of flows exposed at the surface for those flows that are buried to allow a better representation of the recurrence interval. Probabilities are then computed, based on these recurrence intervals, assuming that the data match a Poisson distribution. The probability of lava inundation for the existing prison site is estimated to be 11- 12% in the next 50 years. The probability of lava inundation for the proposed sites B and C are 2- 3% and 1-2%, respectively, in the same period. The probabilities are based on estimated recurrence intervals for lava flows, which are approximately proportional to the area considered. The probability of having to evacuate the prison is certainly higher than the probability of lava entering the site. Maximum warning times between eruption and lava inundation of a site are estimated to be 24 hours for the existing prison site and 72 hours for proposed sites B and C. Evacuation plans should take these times into consideration.

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Updated: 12 Jan 1999