Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kilauea volcanic eruption celebrates 26 years!

The Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium was full on Jan. 13, some people even sitting on the floor and standing up in the back.

They were all there, locals and tourist alike to watch "After Dark In The Park," a presentation by Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on Kilauea's eruptions. The presenter, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Tim Orr, spoke about the east rift zone's 26 years of eruptions and the surprise eruptive vent that opened in Halema'uma'u crater last year.

The east rift zone celebrated its 26th anniversary Jan. 3. It was an exciting and eruptive 26 years. Orr said Pu'u 'O'o vent covered 29,859 acres of land, destroying roughly 180 structures, mostly old abandoned homes in the Royal Garden Subdivision and Kalapana, and adding new land to Hawai'i Island.

Forty-four different activities originated from Pu'u 'O'o vent. Pu'u 'O'o is known for its high lava fountains, each fountain lasting about one day. These high fountains ranged in size, the largest being a little over 1,500 ft high, "Which is a little taller then the Empire State building," Orr said.

In 1986 the eruption shifted downwind away from Pu'u 'O'o, and Kupaianaha was born. Unlike Pu'u 'O'o, which was known for its high lava fountains, Kupaianaha was characterized by its continuous flow of lava. The flow that destroyed Kalapana in 1990 originated from Kupaianaha. On March 5, 2008, the flow reached the ocean, and that same tube system remains today. The location was named Waikupanaha.

The east rift zone flows show no signs of slowing down. According to Orr, the vents will probably continue doing what they have been doing.

During the presentation on Pu'u 'O'o and Kupaianaha, viewers were able to watch a video clip from a time lapse camera, of a period of over 9 hours, which occurred on Jan. 26, 2008. The camera showed lava breaking through the earth and flowing out.

Orr ended his presentation by thanking the past and present USG workers who have contributed to the research that led to his presentation.

To find out more information on the activities of the lava flow visit:

To view the video clips played at the presentation visit:

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