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Volcano Watching: On the roof of Kilauea’s new landscapes, a story is told



The collapse of the Kilauea summit in 2018 dramatically changed the geometry and appearance of the Halema’uma’u crater and the Kilauea caldera. Last week’s “Volcano Watch” article described how events of 2018 affected the plumbing system of magma beneath the surface of Kilauea summit. This week, we’ll explore how events of 2018 affected geological deposits on the surface.

The Kilauea Summit is no stranger to change. Many peak discharges or collapses in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are documented in early Western accounts. Reverend William Ellis, author of the first written description of Kilauea, noted the summit in 1823, “… the crater had recently filled with liquid volcanic lava … and emptied itself, through an underground channel, into the sea, or submerged a lowland on the shore.”

Ellis’s description assumes that the summit of Kilauea was erupting before flank eruption dried the summit. In fact, the eruption of the Kilauea Southwest Rift Zone volcano in 1823 may have contributed to the summit collapse described by Ellis, just like the collapse of the Kilauea Summit in 2018 was accompanied by the eruption of the Lower East Rift Zone.

Kilauea’s summit was partially dried up, which sometimes led to the expansion of Halema’uma’u or the collapse of parts of the caldera floor, in 1823, 1832, 1840, 1868, 1886, 1891, 1894, 1916, 1919, 1922, 1924, and 2018 without Clearly, the frequency of Kilauea summit collapses has decreased in the past century, but prolonged volcanic eruptions in the Middle East Rift Zone at Kilauea (Mauna Ulu 1969-1974 and Pu’u ‘O’o 1983-2018) may have played a role.

Some Kilauea peak discharges or avalanches were accompanied by low-altitude volcanic eruptions; Others, through potentially “failed” eruptions, where magma burst into the flank of a volcano but did not erupt at the surface.

In the past, the Halema`uma`u Crater was described as having transformed into a “mass drop-out crater” after the Kilauea summit draining or collapsed. This description certainly applies to the current appearance of Halima, with the steep crater walls and the base of the rubble.

Post-collapsing 19th-century descriptions of the Kilauea summit sometimes describe the “black rim” – evidence of lava lake summit activity – adjacent to the collapsing areas. Although there was a lava crest lake before the 2018 collapse, it did not leave such a “black edge”; These sediments are now part of the rubble at the base of Halima. The collapse of 2018 almost completely wiped out the geological evidence of the lava lake at the 2008-18 Kilauea summit! How has the collapse of the 2018 summit affected other geological deposits within the Kilauea caldera?

A comparison of pre- and post-2018 geological maps shows that prior to 2018, the floor of the Halema’uma’u crater was made up of pyroclastic flows that erupted in 1974 and 1982 and flows from the summit of the lava lake 2008-18. All these deposits are now part of the rubble at the current (post-2018) Halima base. Now, another type of lake (water) occupies the bottom of Halema’uma’u, although it is not in the same location as the 2008-18 lava lake.

The collapse of the Kilauea Summit 2018 also affected a wider area than the Kilauea Caldera. Prior to 2018, the floor of the Kilauea caldera was a mosaic of lava flows of varying ages – nineteenth century flows that inundated much of the caldera floor that were mostly covered by newer flows from summit eruptions in 1918-1919, 1919, 1921, 1954, 1971, 1974, 1975 and 1982.

During the many earthquakes that accompanied the avalanche events in 2018, these sediments on the Kilauea Caldera floor were erupted, cracked and moved. Parts of it were lowered over a hundred yards and could potentially sideways several tens of yards.

Portions of ancient pyroclastic flow sediments remain intact on the “fallen masses” that formed within the Kilauea caldera during 2018. Lava flows from 1919 and 1974 onto the surface of smaller, precipitated masses, and many pyroclastic flows erupted over the past 150 years are still on The largest of the blocks dropped.

More detailed future geological maps will reveal the extent to which these sediments were affected by the Kilauea collapse in 2018. A previous article entitled “Volcano Watch” describes the new outcrops exposed in the faults that formed during 2018 and their importance for a better understanding of Kilauea’s volcanic history.

The changes at Kilauea summit as a result of the 2018 crash are profound, but not permanent. As the record shows over the past two centuries, Kilauea’s summit would erupt and collapse again (and again), repeatedly changing the summit’s geometry and appearance in the process.

Visit to see past Volcano Watch articles, Kilauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake information, and more. Questions emailed to [email protected]

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by the scientists and affiliates of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of the US Geological Survey.

Volcano activity updates

Kilauea volcano does not erupt. The USGS Volcano alert level remains at NORMAL ( Kilauea updates are released monthly.

Kilauea monitoring data for last month shows variable but typical rates of earthquakes and ground deformation, low rates of sulfur dioxide emissions, and only minor geological changes since the end of volcanic activity in September 2018. The lake of water at the bottom of Halema’uma continues to expand and deepen slowly. For the most recent information on the lake, see

Mauna Loa does not erupt and is still at Volcano Alert Level. This alert level does not imply that an eruption is imminent or that progression to an outbreak from the current level of disturbance is certain. Mauna Loa updates are released weekly.

Last week, about 70 small-scale earthquakes were recorded under the upper elevations of Mauna Loa; Most of these occurred at shallow depths of less than about 5 miles. GPS measurements show a slow rise in long-term summit magnification, consistent with the supply of magma to the volcano’s shallow storage system. The gas concentrations and fumarole temperatures as measured at both the sulfur cone and the summit remain stable. Web cameras do not show any changes to the landscape. For more information on the current monitoring of Mauna Loa volcano, see:

There have been five events with three or more reports in the Hawaiian Islands over the past week: a 2.9 magnitude earthquake 8 miles north of Kocaeli on September 9 at 5:47 pm, a magnitude 3.0 earthquake 4 miles east of Pahala on September 9 at 12: 18 a.m., a 3.4-magnitude earthquake less than a mile southeast of Pahala on September 6 at 2:19 a.m., a 2.6-magnitude earthquake 9 miles north of Pahala on September 5 at 5:04 p.m. and a 3.7-magnitude earthquake On the Richter scale, about one mile north of Halimile on September 4 at 9:43 PM

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