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A decade of geodetic change at Kīlauea’s summit—Observations, interpretations, and unanswered questions from studies of the 2008–2018 Halemaʻumaʻu eruption

October 20, 2021

On March 19, 2008, a small explosion heralded the onset of an extraordinary eruption at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. The following 10 years provided unprecedented access to an actively circulating lava lake located within a region monitored by numerous geodetic tools, including Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), tilt, and gravity. These datasets revealed a range of processes occurring on widely different timescales. Over years, pressure change within the summit magmatic system, determined from ground deformation and lava-lake surface height, seems to have been governed by broad variations in the rate of magma supply from the mantle to the volcano’s shallow magmatic system, as well as changes in the efficiency of East Rift Zone (ERZ) magma transport and eruption. Over weeks to months, intrusions at the summit and along the ERZ, where new eruptive vents commonly formed and intrusions were primed by extension from south-flank motion, were a result of short-term increases in magma supply or waning lava effusion from the ERZ. Waning lava effusion caused magma to back up behind the ERZ eruptive vent all the way to the summit. ERZ intrusions and eruptions caused rapid depressurization of the summit magmatic system, whereas summit intrusions resulted in complex deformation patterns as magma moved to and from two main sub-caldera storage areas. Over hours to days, pressure changes were caused by episodic deflation-inflation (DI) events and possibly small summit intrusions, and deformation of the rim of the summit eruptive vent revealed instabilities that indicated an increased potential for collapse and minor explosive activity. Finally, over timescales of minutes to hours, gas pistoning, summit explosions, very-long-period seismic events, and even the airborne eruptive plume had clear manifestations in geodetic datasets, providing insights into the causes and consequences of those processes. The diversity and quantity of geodetic observations shed important light on this exceptional and well-documented decade-long summit eruption and its accompanying phenomena, yet numerous questions remain about the causal mechanisms, physical processes, and magmatic conditions associated with eruptive and intrusive activity.