Kīlauea is the youngest and southeastern most volcano on the Island of Hawai‘i. 


Topographically Kīlauea appears as only a bulge on the southeastern flank of Mauna Loa, and so for many years Kīlauea was thought to be a mere satellite of its giant neighbor, not a separate volcano. However, research over the past few decades shows clearly that Kīlauea has its own magma-plumbing system, extending to the surface from more than 60 km deep in the earth.

In fact, the summit of Kīlauea lies on a curving line of volcanoes that includes Mauna Kea and Kohala and excludes Mauna Loa. In other words, Kīlauea is to Mauna Kea as Lō‘ihi is to Mauna Loa. Hawaiians used the word Kīlauea only for the summit caldera, but earth scientists and, over time, popular usage have extended the name to include the entire volcano.

Kīlauea is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Hawaiian chants and oral traditions tell in veiled form of many eruptions fomented by an angry Pele before the first European, the missionary Rev. William Ellis, saw the summit in 1823. The caldera was the site of nearly continuous activity during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Kīlauea ranks among the world's most active volcanoes and may even top the list.

Since 1952, Kīlauea has erupted 34 times. From 1983 to 2018 eruptive activity was nearly continuous along the volcano's East Rift Zone. At the summit, a vent within Halema‘uma‘u hosted an active lava pond and vigorous gas plume from 2008 to 2018. In 2018, the decades-long continuous activity on the East Rift Zone ended, and the summit lava lake drained following an intrusion into, and eruption from, Kīlauea's lower East Rift Zone. That was Kīlauea's largest eruption in at least 200 years and was accompanied by the largest summit collapse for the same time period.


Date published: November 19, 2020

Volcano Watch — How has topography been modeled at Hawaii’s volcanoes?

In volcano-related cartography and geographic analyses, especially in Hawaii, there is perhaps nothing more important than having an accurate digital model of topography. Such models depict the three-dimensional nature of the land, which elucidate features from past eruptions and help us to determine potential pathways of future activity. But how are these models created?

Date published: November 16, 2020

Photo and Video Chronology – Kīlauea – November 11, 2020

No significant changes at Kīlauea's summit water lake

Date published: November 6, 2020

New research publication: "The cascading origin of the 2018 Kīlauea eruption and implications for future forecasting"

This work, recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, discusses the events leading up to Kīlauea's 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse. The paper details how the 2018 eruption evolved as a sequence of cascading events, allowing minor changes to cause major destruction and historic changes across the volcano. 

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