Viewing an erupting volcano is a memorable experience, one that has inspired fear, superstition, worship, curiosity, and fascination since before the dawn of civilization. In modern times, volcanic phenomena have attracted intense scientific interest, because they provide the key to understanding processes that have created and shaped more than 80 percent of the Earth's surface. The active Hawaiian volcanoes have received special attention worldwide because of their frequent spectacular eruptions, which often can be viewed and studied with relative ease and safety.
In January 1987, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), located on the rim of Kilauea Volcano, celebrated its 75th Anniversary. In honor of HVO's Diamond Jubilee, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) published Professional Paper 1350 (see list of Selected Readings, page 57), a comprehensive summary of the many studies on Hawaiian volcanism by USGS and other scientists through the mid-1980s. Drawing from the wealth of data contained in that volume, the USGS also published in 1987 the original edition of this general-interest booklet, focusing on selected aspects of the eruptive history, style, and products of two of Hawai'i's active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. This revised edition of the booklet-spurred by the approaching Centennial of HVO in January 2012-summarizes new information gained since the January 1983 onset of Kilauea's Pu'u 'O'o-Kupaianaha eruption, which has continued essentially nonstop through 2010 and shows no signs of letup. It also includes description of Kilauea's summit activity within Halema'uma'u Crater, which began in mid-March 2008 and continues as of this writing (late 2010).
This general-interest booklet is a companion to the one on Mount St. Helens Volcano first published in 1984 and revised in 1990 (see Selected Readings). Together, these publications illustrate the contrast between the two main types of volcanoes: shield volcanoes, such as those in Hawai'i, which generally are nonexplosive; and composite volcanoes, such as Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range, which are renowned for their explosive eruptions.