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Lava flows from current eruption cover
7.25 percent of Kilauea Volcano

Color shaded-relief map of lava flows erupted from Pu`u `O`o and Kupaianaha vents, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i

View of Hawai`i Island looking toward north-northwest. Area covered by lava flows (104 km2) erupted during the ongoing Pu`u `O`o-Kupaianaha eruption is shown in color: yellow, Jan. 1983-June 1986; blue, July 1986-Feb. 1992; tan, Feb. 1992-Dec. 2000. See larger version of the image.

In its 19th year, the ongoing Pu`u `O`o-Kupaianaha eruption is the longest rift-zone eruption of Kilauea Volcano in written history. Since the eruption began in 1983, lava has covered 104 km2 (40 mi2), which is just over 7 percent of Kilauea's land surface. Some areas have been mantled repeatedly since 1983 and are now buried beneath more than 30 m of basalt.

The current eruption illustrates what we've known about Kilauea for at least 30 years--most of its surface is covered with lava flows of extremely young ages. Geologic mapping in the 1970s and revised since shows that about 70 percent of Kilauea's surface is paved with flows younger than 600 years and that 90 percent is younger than 1,100 years. When the mapping was begun, scientists thought that a large part of Kilauea's surface was between 5,000 and 10,000 years old.

Even more recent geologic studies have shown that the `Aila`au eruption, fed from a vent just east of the summit area, probably continued for about 50 years during the 14th century. Flows from this eruption covered a very large area north of the east rift zone, about 430 km2 (30 percent of Kilauea's land surface)! Even the 2-yr-long Mauna Ulu eruptions (1969-71 and 1972-74) covered about 50 km2 and 44 km2 respectively. Knowing about the `Aila`au eruption, remembering the Mauna Ulu eruptions, and witnessing the current eruption, it is easy to understand why Kilauea's surface is so young. 

Summary Statistics of Pu`u `O`o-Kupaianaha Eruption

  • Total area covered by lava, 1/83-12/31/00: 104 km2 (40 mi2)
  • Net area of new land created, 11/86-12/31/00: 207 hectares (510 acres)
  • Net new land created during 2000 only: ~7.5 hectares (18.5 acres)
  • Volume of lava erupted, 1983-2001: 2 km3 (0.5 mi3)
  • Structures destroyed, 1983-1991: 184
  • Structures destroyed, 2000: 3 (all in Royal Gardens)

Safety tips for viewing lava safely

For information about the potentially dangerous activity where lava enters the sea, see the following online sources, the first of which is a new USGS-NPS fact sheet:

Pahoehoe toe and sluggish lava flow around Pulama pali

Pahoehoe toe advances over ancient Hawaiian foot path
Pahoehoe toe advances over an ancient Hawaiian foot path at the base of Pulama pali. At this location, the footpath is built atop an `a`a flow that geologists estimate was erupted at least 1,500 years ago.
Sluggish lava flow on the Pulama pali
Sluggish lava flow spreads from the base of Pulama pali (background), burning vegetation sandwiched between flows emplaced in 1985 and 1992. As new lava continued to feed the leading edge of flow, the trailing surface inflated by several meters.


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Updated: 28 September 2001 (srb)
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