The Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i—Episode 21 Through Early Episode 48, June 1984–April 1987

Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5109
By: , and 



The Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption from the middle East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano began in January 1983 with intermittent activity along several fissures. By June 1983, the eruption had localized at the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent and the activity settled into an increasingly regular pattern of brief eruptive episodes characterized by high lava fountains. The first 18 months of the eruption (episodes 1–20) are chronicled in previous publications.

In the two years following episode 20, Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō produced another 27 high-fountaining episodes. Episodes 21–47 lasted an average of 12.9 hours and were separated by inter-episode periods averaging 26.5 days. The lava fountains, which reached as high as 510 meters (m), fed lava flows (mostly channelized ʻaʻā) that brought the total area covered by the eruption to 40 square kilometers (km2) by the end of episode 47. Flow thickness measurements obtained for episodes 21–40 averaged 3.4 m; lava volumes for episodes 21–47 averaged 8.0×106 m3 per episode (including the 16-day fissure outbreak of episode 35).

The Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō cone—a composite of pyroclastic material and lava flows—reached its maximum height of 255 m above the pre-eruption surface during episode 43 and maintained that height through episode 47. Short-lived eruptive fissures and vents at or near the base of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō cone accompanied episodes 21, 25, 29, 35, 39, and 44. Episode 35 was unusual in that a fissure on the uprift flank of the cone erupted early in the episode, and then reactivated and extended 2.5 km uprift after the high fountaining was over and erupted for the next 16 days.

The volcano was primed for the 48th episode of high fountaining on July 18, 1986, when the conduit beneath Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō ruptured again and magma erupted through new fissures at the base of the cone on both its uprift and downrift sides. These fissures were active for only 21 hours, but a third fissure, which opened 3 km downrift from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō on July 20, persisted and evolved into a single vent, later named Kupaianaha. Kupaianaha erupted almost continuously for the next 5.5 years (the main part of episode 48). The onset of episode 48 marked the end of episodic high fountaining and the transition to nearly continuous effusion. A lava lake developed over the Kupaianaha vent, and overflows from the lake built a broad, low shield that reached a relatively stable height of 45 m by November 1986.

After weeks of continuous eruption, the main lava channel leading from the lake gradually roofed over, forming a lava tube. By November 1986, the tube had extended from the lake to the ocean, 12 km southeast, closing the coastal highway. Tube-fed flows overran 28 houses in the coastal communities of Kapa‘ahu and Kalapana over the next month.

Suggested Citation

Orr, T.R., Ulrich, G.E., Heliker, C., DeSmither, L.G., and Hoffmann, J.P., 2018, The Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i—Episode 21 through early episode 48, June 1984–April 1987: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5109, 107 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Previous Work
  • Methods
  • General Observations
  • Chronologic Narrative Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title The Puʻu ʻŌʻō eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i—Episode 21 through early episode 48, June 1984–April 1987
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2018-5109
DOI 10.3133/sir20185109
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description x, 107 p.
Country United States
State Hawai'i
Other Geospatial Kīlauea Volcano
Online Only (Y/N) Y