Geometry of the September 1971 eruptive fissure at Kilauea volcano, Hawaii

Bulletin of Volcanology

DOI: 10.1007/BF00301531



A three-dimensional model has been used to estimate the location and dimensions of the eruptive fissure for the 24-29 September 1971 eruption along the southwest rift zone of Kilauea volcano, Hawaii. The model is an inclined rectangular sheet embedded in an elastic half-space with constant displacement on the plane of the sheet. The set of "best" model parameters suggests that the sheet is vertical, extends from a depth of about 2 km to the surface, and has a length of about 14 km. Because this sheet intersects the surface where eruptive vents and extensive ground cracking formed during the eruption, this sheet probably represents the conduit for erupted lava. The amount of displacement perpendicular to the sheet is about 1.9 m, in the middle range of values measured for the amount of opening across the September 1971 eruptive fissure. The thickness of the eruptive fissure associated with the January 1983 east rift zone eruption was determined in an earlier paper to be 3.6 m, about twice the thickness determined here for the September 1971 eruption. Because the lengths (12 km for 1983 and 14 km for 1971) and heights (about 2 km) of the sheet models derived for the January 1983 and September 1971 rift zone eruptions are nearly identical, the greater thickness for the January 1983 eruptive fissure implies that the magma pressure was about a factor of two greater to form the January 1983 eruptive fissure. Because the September 1971 and January 1983 eruptive fissures extent to depths of only a few kilometers, the region of greatest compressive stress produced along the volcano's flank by either of these eruptive fissures would also be within a few kilometers of the surface. Previous work has shown that rift eruptions and intrusions contribute to the buildup of compressive stress along Kilauea's south flank and that this buildup is released by increased seismicity along the south flank. Because south flank earthquakes occur at significantly greater depths, i.e., from 5 to 13 km, than the vertical extent of the 1971 and 1983 eruptiv fissures, the depth of emplacement of these eruptive fissures cannot be the main factor in controlling the hypocentral depths of south flank earthquakes. Two possible explanations for the occurrence of south flank earthquakes in the depth range of 5-13 km are (1) a deeper pressure source, possibly related to deeper magma storage within the rift zone, and (2) a lowstrength region located between 5 and 13 km beneath Kilauea's south flank, possibly at the interface between oceanic sediments and the base of the Hawaiian volcanics. ?? 1990 Springer-Verlag.

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Geometry of the September 1971 eruptive fissure at Kilauea volcano, Hawaii
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Bulletin of Volcanology
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