The character of long-term eruptions: Inferences from episodes 50-53 of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō-Kūpaianaha eruption of Kīlauea volcano

Bulletin of Volcanology
By: , and 



The Pu'u 'Ō'ō-Kūpaianaha eruption on the east rift zone of Kīlauea began in January 1983. The first 9 years of the eruption were divided between the Pu'u 'Ō'ō (1983–1986) and Kūpaianaha (1986–1992) vents, each characterized by regular, predictable patterns of activity that endured for years. In 1990 a series of pauses in the activity disturbed the equilibrium of the eruption, and in 1991, the output from Kūpaianaha steadily declined and a short-lived fissure eruption broke out between Kūpaianaha and Pu'u 'Ō'ō. In February 1992 the Kūpaianaha vent died, and, 10 days later, eruptive episode 50 began as a fissure opened on the uprift flank of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō cone. For the next year, the eruption was marked by instability as more vents opened on the flank of the cone and the activity was repeatedly interrupted by brief pauses in magma supply to the vents. Episodes 50–53 constructed a lava shield 60 m high and 1.3 km in diameter against the steep slope of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō cone. By 1993 the shield was pockmarked by collapse pits as vents and lava tubes downcut as much as 29 m through the thick deposit of scoria and spatter that veneered the cone. As the vents progressively lowered, the level of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō pond also dropped, demonstrating the hydraulic connection between the two. The downcutting helped to undermine the prominent Pu'u 'Ō'ō cone, which has diminished in size both by collapse, as a large pit crater formed over the conduit, and by burial of its flanks. Intervals of eruptive instability, such as that of 1991–1993, accelerate lateral expansion of the subaerial flow field both by producing widely spaced vents and by promoting surface flow activity as lava tubes collapse and become blocked during pauses.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The character of long-term eruptions: Inferences from episodes 50-53 of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō-Kūpaianaha eruption of Kīlauea volcano
Series title Bulletin of Volcanology
DOI 10.1007/s004450050198
Volume 59
Issue 6
Year Published 1998
Language English
Publisher Springer
Description 13 p.
First page 381
Last page 393
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N