Magma supply, storage, and transport at shield-stage Hawaiian volcanoes

Professional Paper 1801-5
By: , and 
Edited by: Michael P. PolandT. Jane Takahashi, and Claire M. Landowski



The characteristics of magma supply, storage, and transport are among the most critical parameters governing volcanic activity, yet they remain largely unconstrained because all three processes are hidden beneath the surface. Hawaiian volcanoes, particularly Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, offer excellent prospects for studying subsurface magmatic processes, owing to their accessibility and frequent eruptive and intrusive activity. In addition, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, founded in 1912, maintains long records of geological, geophysical, and geochemical data. As a result, Hawaiian volcanoes have served as both a model for basaltic volcanism in general and a starting point for many studies of volcanic processes.

Magma supply to Hawaiian volcanoes has varied over millions of years but is presently at a high level. Supply to Kīlauea’s shallow magmatic system averages about 0.1 km3/yr and fluctuates on timescales of months to years due to changes in pressure within the summit reservoir system, as well as in the volume of melt supplied by the source hot spot. Magma plumbing systems beneath Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are complex and are best constrained at Kīlauea. Multiple regions of magma storage characterize Kīlauea’s summit, and two pairs of rift zones, one providing a shallow magma pathway and the other forming a structural boundary within the volcano, radiate from the summit to carry magma to intrusion/eruption sites located nearby or tens of kilometers from the caldera. Whether or not magma is present within the deep rift zone, which extends beneath the structural rift zones at ~3-km depth to the base of the volcano at ~9-km depth, remains an open question, but we suggest that most magma entering Kīlauea must pass through the summit reservoir system before entering the rift zones. Mauna Loa’s summit magma storage system includes at least two interconnected reservoirs, with one centered beneath the south margin of the caldera and the other elongated along the axis of the caldera. Transport of magma within shield-stage Hawaiian volcanoes occurs through dikes that can evolve into long-lived pipe-like pathways. The ratio of eruptive to noneruptive dikes is large in Hawai‘i, compared to other basaltic volcanoes (in Iceland, for example), because Hawaiian dikes tend to be intruded with high driving pressures. Passive dike intrusions also occur, motivated at Kīlauea by rift opening in response to seaward slip of the volcano’s south flank.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Magma supply, storage, and transport at shield-stage Hawaiian volcanoes
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1801
Chapter 5
DOI 10.3133/pp18015
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Volcano Hazards Program, Volcano Science Center
Description 56 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title Characteristics of Hawaiian volcanoes
First page 179
Last page 234
Country United States
State Hawaii
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table