A small explosive eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, occurred in May 1924. The eruption was preceded by rapid draining of a lava lake and transfer of a large volume of magma from the summit reservoir to the east rift zone. This lowered the magma column, which reduced hydrostatic pressure beneath Halemaumau and allowed groundwater to flow rapidly into areas of hot rock, producing a phreatic eruption. A comparison with other events at Kilauea shows that the transfer of a large volume of magma out of the summit reservoir is not sufficient to produce a phreatic eruption. For example, the volume transferred at the beginning of explosive activity in May 1924 was less than the volumes transferred in March 1955 and January-February 1960, when no explosive activity occurred. Likewise, draining of a lava lake and deepening of the floor of Halemaumau, which occurred in May 1922 and August 1923, were not sufficient to produce explosive activity. A phreatic eruption of Kilauea requires both the transfer of a large volume of magma from the summit reservoir and the rapid removal of magma from near the surface, where the surrounding rocks have been heated to a sufficient temperature to produce steam explosions when suddenly contacted by groundwater. ?? 1992 Springer-Verlag.