Link #142: Kilauea Volcano Has Been Erupting For 32 Years!

Kilauea Volcano
Kilauea Volcano. Image credit: exfordy/CC BY 2.0


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Link #142: Kilauea Volcano Has Been Erupting For 32 Years!

Kilauea Volcano
Kilauea Volcano. Image credit: exfordy/CC BY 2.0

We told you about the Maleos in our last post. We told you how these birds incubate their eggs in volcanic heat and that their chicks are on their own when these eggs hatch. Maleos stay on one of the Indonesian islands famous for their volcanoes.

Effectively, because of the unique nesting habits of these birds, another place where they may be able to survive is the Hawaiian Islands with the Big Island especially being useful. Why do we say this? Well, we say this because the Big Island of the Hawaiian Islands is home to a volcano that has been erupting for more than three decades!

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How Long Has Kilauea Volcano Been Erupting?

Kilauea Volcano
Puʻu ʻŌʻō rift, Kilauea Volcano, 1983. Image credit: G.E. Ulrich, USGS/CC0

The Kilauea Volcano has been erupting for more than 32 years now. It began erupting way back in 1983. Eruptions at the Kilauea Volcano either occur at its caldera which is its summit or through one of its rifts.

For instance, a large number of the current cycle of eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano occurred at its Puʻu ʻŌʻō rift located on its eastern side. The lava erupts out of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō rift and flows down the side to the ocean.

Because of the frequency with which the Kilauea Volcano has been erupting in recorded history, it is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes on the planet.

How Was The Kilauea Volcano Formed?

Hawaii hotspot cross-sectional diagram
A diagram showing the Hawaii hotspot. Image credit: Joel E. Robinson, USGS/CC0

While a new theory is being developed that may debunk the old one, the currently established formation theory for Kilauea Volcano is known as the hotspot theory. The hotspot theory focuses on a spot of extreme heat below the pacific tectonic plate which is a huge mass of slow moving rock on which the whole pacific region rests.

The theory states that as the pacific tectonic plate moves over this hotspot, rock is melted into lava which starts streaming upwards. When it breaks through the plate, it forms an active undersea volcano on the plate. As erupts more and more, the height of the volcano increases till it breaks through the surface of the ocean.

This explains the formation of the first Hawaiian island. When the pacific plate continues moving it takes this island with it. The old island is replaced by a new island formed because of the same process.

How Much Damage Has The Kilauea Volcano Done?

Kalapana house destroyed by lava
Photo of a house in Kalapana, Hawaii being destroyed by a pahoehoe flow. Image credit: United States Geological Survey/CC0

In the past three decades, the Kilauea Volcano has destroyed two towns nearby. The more prominent of these two towns was Kalapana while the other one was Kaimu. This destruction occurred three years after the Kilauea Volcano began its eruption in 1983.

Even though the majority of Kilauea Volcano’s eruptions have occurred   at its Puʻu ʻŌʻō rift, the 1986 lava flow originated from Kupaianaha vent which is located on the south eastern side of the volcano.

The most recent destruction caused by the Kilauea Volcano occurred in 2010 when a single home was destroyed by lava originating from the volcano. This latest flow followed the same route that the 1986 lava followed.

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