Kilauea Iki summit eruption:
Nov. 14 - Dec. 20, 1959 [
Many who witnessed the awesome and sometimes terrifying lava
fountains of the Kilauea Iki Crater eruption in 1959 remember
the activity as "the eruption" of Kilauea Volcano. Thousands
gathered at the summit during the 5-week-long eruption to watch
powerful fountains blast lava and pumice as high as 580 m
(1,900 ft) into the sky and build Pu`u Pua`i (gushing hill),
today one of Kilauea's most prominent landmarks.
During the eruption, 17 episodes generated huge lava fountains
and sent vast outpourings of lava into Kilauea Iki Crater,
eventually filling it to a depth of 126 m (414 ft). More astounding
to many onlookers, however, was the tremendous volume of lava that
flooded the lava lake and then drained back into the depths of
Kilauea, sometimes at the same time as the fountaining and often
at a greater rate. Out of the 102 million m3 that
erupted into the lake, 63 million m3 flowed back
down the vent!
The eruption also proved to be one of the most important
milestones in the study of Hawaiian volcanism. Under the
leadership of Dr. Jerry Eaton, scientists had only recently
expanded the small network of seismometers with new instruments
and installed a super-precise tiltmeter system around the
caldera when Kilauea roared back to life.
For the first time these new instruments permitted scientists
to (1) identify the depth at which magma originates from beneath the
Big Island; (2) accurately locate thousands of tiny earthquakes in
the summit area and along the east rift zone of Kilauea; and (3)
correlate the rise and fall of Kilauea's caldera to the rise of
magma into the volcano, eruption at the summit, and movement of
magma from beneath the summit into the east rift zone. The basic
model that Eaton and his colleagues subsequently developed to explain
how Kilauea Volcano works, and the connection between its summit
magma reservoir and rift zones, are still fundamental to the current
monitoring program of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Stay tuned... the 1959 summit eruption was followed by
an eruption on 13 January 1960 from the lower east rift zone
next to the small community of Kapoho. On the 40th anniversary of
this event, we'll provide a summary of the Kapoho eruption and
its effects on the community.