Longest Continuous Volcanic Eruption In The World
January 28, 2014

Longest Continuous Volcanic Eruption In The World

Around the world, there are thousands of volcanoes. Some dormant, others are active, but one has been in continuous eruption since January 3, 1983. It is a cinder-spatter cone named Pu’u ‘O’o, located in the eastern rift zone of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

The first recorded eruption of Kilauea was in 1750. Although there have been earlier eruptions from this volcano, the dates and accuracy of them have not been documented correctly.

Kilauea has been described as one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The name Pu’u ‘O’o derived from volcanologists assigning letters to vents as they occurred during the first eruption.

In 1983, the eruptions from Kilauea began by fissures splitting the ground and by June, they were localized to the Pu’u ‘O’o vent. In the next three years, 44 eruptions occurred spewing fountains of lave 1,500 feet into the air.

The Pu’u ‘O’o vent was formed by day-long eruptions occurring about every three weeks. In 1986, a new lava shield was formed named Kupaianaha. Lava tubes were formed enabling the flow to travel farther and reach the coastline. Kupaianaha vent died in February 1992 and eruption once again formed from the Pu’u ‘O’o vent.

The most destructive eruption occurred in 1990. Lava flows turned eastward and destroyed the villages of Kalapana and Kaimu, consuming 100 homes, covering Kaimu Bay and Kalapana Black Sand Beach with magma.

From 1992 to 2007, Pu’u ‘O’o erupted continuously. At the end of June 2007, another eruption occurred west of the Pu’u ‘O’o vent, sending a flow of lava to the southeast coast. In 2008, lava flows continued east of the vent. New fissures opened along the lava tube, destroying several homes in Royal Gardens and Kalapana Gardens subdivisions.

Ongoing eruptions and lava flows continued until March 2011, when a fissure eruption occurred west of Pu’u ’O’o and lasted four days filling the Pu’u ’O’o crater. In September 2011, the vent Pu’u ‘O’o opened again and lava flows continued until January 2013 when it was joined by a new flow called “the Kahauale’s flow.” The two flows continued until November 2013 when the Pu’u ‘O’o flow ceased. However, the Kahauale’s flow continues burning forest as it is advancing northeast. It is moving slowly and poses no immediate threat to populated areas.

January 3, 2014 denotes 31 years of the continuous eruption of Kilauea. Since 1983 there has been one cubic mile of lava released covering 49 square miles of land and destroying 214 buildings.

A lava lake has developed within Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u which produces a nighttime glow. The lake has remained steady at around 148 feet below the rim as of January 2, 2014. An east rift flow continues slowly into the forest 3.9 miles northeast of the Pu’u ‘O’o vent.

Image Credit: USGS

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