Photo and Video Chronology - Kīlauea - March 16, 1998

Release Date:

East Rift Zone Eruption Quietly Delivers Lava to the Sea

[This update current as of March 16, 1998. Eruption updates are posted monthly; more frequent updates will accompany drastic changes in activity or increased threat to residential areas.]

Since our previous update on February 24th:

  • the eruption has been characterized by steady-state activity on the east rift zone. Seismicity has been low, and the summit of Kilauea Volcano has shown almost no inflation or deflation, because magma is able to move through shallow conduits en route to the east rift zone without disturbing the ground surface.
  • surface flows were briefly active on the Pulama pali on March 2 and 10.
  • surface flows were active intermittently on the coastal plain.

The Pu`u `O`o vent area has showed little change for the last six weeks, except for a new glowing hole in the crater floor that was first observed on March 11. The pre-existing crater vent is also marked by a glowing hole, but has not produced any lava for over three weeks. Fume issues from cracks in the cone and surrounding area. Even helicopter overflights are commonly greeted with such profuse fuming that little of the crater vent may be visible at any one time.

Lava travels in tubes from the Pu`u `O`o vent area to the ocean. Surface lava flows have been sparse in the past six weeks. Lava broke out of the tube on the Pulama pali on March 2 and 10. Both flows stagnated in less than a day. Small flows issued from lava tubes on the coastal plain on March 3-7, March 10, and March 14. These flows escape from weak points in the roof of the tube. Most breakouts have been near the Waha`ula ocean entry. The photo above shows a skylight and eight-week-old lava flow on the upper flow field.

Lava from the ongoing eruption enters the ocean at two sites. New land is built in these areas as the lava progrades seaward. Waha`ula, the easterly site, is named for a heiau (ancient Hawaiian temple) that was overrun by lava in August 1997.

The westerly site at Kamokuna shows many features characteristic of the lava-ocean interface. A 10- to 15-m-high cliff borders the ocean, and the new land forms a low shelf or bench at the foot of the cliff. The bench grows seaward, but the steep submarine slope promotes failure when the bench becomes too massive. At these times, the bench and its substrate collapse abruptly into the ocean. Such a collapse occurred sometime between February 16 and 19, destroying 4 hectares (10 acres) of land that had been built since the previous collapse five weeks earlier on January 15.

Eruption-viewing opportunities change constantly, so those readers planning a visit to the volcano should contact Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park for the most current eruption information (ph. 808-985-6000). Additional photographs and descriptions of east rift eruptive activity may be found on the University of Hawai`i's web site.