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Kilauea Facts

Volcanos are formed over years and years of volcanic activity. Deep beneath the ground that we walk on (called the Earth’s crust), there are hot semi-liquid rocks called magma. Whenever there is an opening or line of weakness (called vents or fissures) within the crust, the magma flows out and spreads in all directions as lava. 

Lava typically flows slowly before cooling and solidifying. Each lava flow covers the previous layer and spreads outwards before solidifying. Flow after flow eventually forms a broad, low-profile mountain with gentle lower slopes, stepper middle slopes, and a flattened summit called a shield volcano.

Kilauea Facts for Kids

  • Kilauea is a broad shield volcano.
  • It is among the world’s most active volcanos.
  • It formed on a volcanic hotspot.
  • Kilauea erupts a type of basalt called tholeiite.
  • Its highest point is 1,247 meters (4,091ft) high.
  • It is shield-like shaped with an immense caldera at the summit.
  • The Halemaumau crater is Kilauea’s most active vent.

What You Should Know About The Kilauea Volcano

What Country Is Kilauea Volcano In?

Kilauea volcano is located on Hawaii island in Hawaii State, US. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the five volcanos that form the Big Island. Kilauea covers the southeastern part of the Hawaii island in the North Pacific Ocean. The other four volcanos are:

  • Mauna Loa (still active)
  • Hualālai (dormant)
  • Mauna Kea (dormant)
  • Kohala (extinct)

These shield volcanos (including Kilauea) erupted sequentially, so they seem to overlap each other in a chain.

How Did Kilauea Get Its Name?

Kilauea is a Hawaiian name translated as “much spreading” or “spewing ” in English. According to USGS, Hawaiians initially used the name Kilauea to refer to the summit caldera from which lava flowed frequently. But earth scientists used the name to refer to the whole mountain, and with time, everyone else followed suit.  

How Old Is Kilauea Volcano?

According to Wikipedia, Kilauea is between 210,000 to 280,000 years old. It appeared above sea level about 100,000 years ago, though a big part of the volcano is still submerged in water. About 90% of the lava covering Kilauea dates back 1,100 years.

What Is Kilauea Known For?

Besides the beautiful scenery, Kilauea is known for a lot of events marking its history. Here are some of the most notable things about Kilauea.

Intraplate (Hotspot) Volcanism

Most volcanoes on the Earth happen along tectonic plate boundaries due to the movement of the plates. Geologists initially thought that this could explain all volcanos in the world until it couldn’t. According to Geology, the Kilauea volcano is in the middle of the Pacific plate and 2,000 meters away from the Pacific plate boundary. One Canadian geophysicist, J. Tuzo Wilson, proposed the “hot spot” hypothesis in 1963 to explain the Hawaiian volcanos.

According to National Geographic, a hot spot is a region in the Earth’s crust (the outermost rocky surface of the Earth) that lies above a mantle plume. This is a region under the crust where the magma is hotter than other surrounding magma within the mantle.

The hotter magma eventually melts and thins out the rocks in the crust, creating weak spots. Finally, buoyant magma erupts through the weak spots and flows on the Earth’s surface. After much debate and research, earth scientists agreed that these hot spots cause volcanos within tectonic plates.

Scientists believe that the Hawaiian hot spot stretches about 200 miles to feed the two active volcanos, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. According to National Geographic, the Kilauea volcano formed due to the Pacific plate movement over the Hawaiian hot spot. Thin lava spewed out onto the ocean floor and solidified to form a volcano.

After years and years of eruptions, Kilauea eventually rose above sea level. Tectonic plates move, but hot spots remain fixed. As one volcano shifts away from a hot spot, another begins to form on the hot spot, creating a chain of islands like the Hawaiian Islands.

Most Active Volcano

Kilauea is the youngest and most active of the five shield volcanos in the Big Island. It is also ranked among the world’s most active volcanos. According to USGS, geologists previously thought that Kilauea was merely a Mauna Loa satellite until research proved otherwise. Researchers found that Kilauea has its own mantle plume that runs 60 kilometers deep into the Earth.

Home To A Goddess

Like other communities, Hawaiians used legends and mythologies to explain nature’s events before the dawn of science. Hawaiians believed that Kilauea is the home to a family of fire gods. According to Wikipedia, they thought that one of the sisters, Pele (respectfully called Madame Pele), was the goddess who led Kilauea and controlled the eruptions. She allegedly lived in Kilauea’s summit caldera in the Halemaʻumaʻu crater, where she would summon eruptions in rage, passion, and envy. She was named the goddess of volcanos.

Hawaiian chants and legends tell different versions of Pele’s story. But the legends died after the Hawaiians embraced the Christian faith in the 1820s. When High Chiefess Kapiʻolani recited a Christian prayer before descending into Pele’s sacred fort, Halemaʻumaʻu, and came out alive, it convinced Hawaiians that the Christian faith was superior.

Another interesting legend says that Hawaiians invented Pele’s Curse to prevent tourists from stealing items on the Hawaiian island. The legend said that items on the island were sacred, and anyone who removed them would suffer Pele’s wrath. For this reason, the National Park Service receives countless natural items taken from the island by tourists seeking Pele’s forgiveness.

Some Hawaiians still believe that Pele appears to warn them about future eruptions. They say that she appears as an older woman or an attractive young woman dressed in red and accompanied by a dog. Apparently, she sends whoever she meets to warn the people that they should change or face her wrath in an eruption.

What Makes Kilauea Volcano Unique?

Kilauea is among the world’s most productive volcanos, having been in constant activity since 1790. According to Wikipedia, the longest period in which Kilauea did not erupt was 18 years long between 1934 to 1952. Kilauea is also a world heritage site that attracts over 2.6 million tourists every year as part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

Hot Water Lake That Is Coolest At The Center.

Kilauea’s summit caldera used to be a beautiful lava lake until the end of the 2018 eruption. According to a 2020 USGS report, Kilauea’s summit is now a hot water lake with surface water reaching highs of 850 Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit).

Very few volcanos in the world get as hot as 800 Celsius hot. USGS explains that the water is extra heated by underground water, residual heat from the 2018 eruption, and hot gas vents in the volcano. This high temperature is not uniform across the lake surface. The central part of the summit lake is the coolest.

While most of Kilauea’s eruptions have been non-explosive and well-contained within Halemaʻumaʻu, Wikipedia reckoned that the hot water might lead to an explosive eruption. Although the threat still looms, the next eruption in 2020 was non-explosive.

When Did Kilauea Last Erupt?

December 20, 2020, Till Present

Kilauea’s last recorded eruption began on December 20, 2020, in the Halemaʻumaʻu crater. And according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory report on February 8, 2021, the eruption continues. The current Kilauea eruption comes after a three-and-a-half-decade-long eruption that ended more than two years earlier. 

January 3, 1983, To April 2018

The 35-year long eruption of the Kilauea volcano erupted in the Pu’u’ Ō‘ō vent. According to USGS, this was the largest and longest eruption of the Kilauea volcano in the past 500 years. Earth scientists recorded 61 volcanic activity episodes, which ended in 55.6mi2 (144km2) of land covered in lava and 439 acres (177 hectares) of new land formed in Kīlauea’s southeastern shore. Though the eruption buried about 215 structures and roads, the flowing lava attracted tourists from all over the world who couldn’t resist the lure.

Other Eruptions

According to Hawaii Center for Volcanology, the historical record of Kilauea’s volcanic activity began in 1790. Though the 1790 eruption was noted in history books, there is no record of the actual events or damages. The next eruption in 1823 is the first well-recorded Kilauea eruption, followed by repetitive eruptions over the past 200 years.

Can You Visit Kilauea Volcano?

Yes, you can visit, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open every day from 9.am to 5.pm According to Love Big Island, you can get close to the lava in a guided tour or hike. Alternatively, you can view from a safe distance in a helicopter or a public viewing area. Kilauea is only one part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

Though the many parts of the park were damaged in the 2018 eruption, there’s a lot left to explore, like wildlife, lava tubes, scenic drives, volcano art center, and the free junior ranger program activities for kids under 12. Tourists swear by the breathtaking beauty of sunrise and sunset in Kilauea. And nothing beats viewing the lava glimmering within the Halemaʻumaʻu crater or flowing into the ocean.