Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park News
Release Release Date: Dec. 29, 2011
Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone Eruption:
29 Years and Counting
Photo credit: USGS photo by Tim Orr
Hawaii National Park, HI – Jan. 3, 2012 marks the 29th anniversary of
Kīlauea’s ongoing east rift zone eruption. This eruption, particularly
events that occurred during the past year, will be the topic of an “After
Dark in the Park” program in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Tues., Jan. 3.
Tim Orr, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano
Observatory, will review the eruption, focusing on highlights from Kīlauea’s
2011 activity. The program begins at 7 p.m. at the park’s Kīlauea Visitor
Center Auditorium. Park entrance fees apply.
The eruption began just after midnight on Jan. 3, 1983, with lava erupting
to the surface along several fissures. By June 1983, the eruption was
focused at a single vent. Over the next three years, lava fountains up to
1,500 feet high roared from the vent 44 times, building a cinder-and-spatter
cone named Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō.
In July 1986, the eruption shifted to Kupaianaha, a new vent farther down
the east rift zone. Lava poured from this vent nearly continuously for
almost six years, burning and burying Kīlauea’s south flank, including the
communities of Kapa‘ahu and Kalapana, in 1986 and 1990, respectively.
Early in 1992, the eruption returned to vents on the flanks of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō.
Over the next 18 years, lava flowed down the slopes of Kīlauea, inundating
areas within and outside of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National park and often
reaching the sea.
During the past year, Kīlauea’s ongoing east rift zone eruption has included
two spectacular fissure eruptions, a dramatic outbreak of lava from the west
flank of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō, and, on Dec. 9, 2011, a new ocean entry USGS scientists
named West Ka‘ili‘ili—the first ocean entry within the boundaries of Hawai‘i
Volcanoes National Park since 2009.
Since the eruption began in 1983, lava flows have buried 48 square miles of
public and private land, destroying vast tracts of native forest, nine miles
of highway, and 213 structures, including homes, a church, and the Waha‘ula
Visitor Center in the park.
While Kīlauea’s current east rift zone eruption has been its most
destructive event in recent history, the eruption has also been
constructive. Molten lava flowing into the sea has added about 500 acres of
new land to Hawai‘i Island.
This presentation is one of many talks, guided hikes, and other programs
offered by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National
Park as part of Hawai‘i Island’s third annual Volcano Awareness Month in
January. For more information about this talk, please call 808-985-6011.
For a complete schedule of Volcano Awareness Month events, please visit the
HVO Web site at
www.hvo.wr.usgs.gov or call (808) 967-8844.
Caption for attached photo: On Mar. 6, 2011, a spectacular fissure eruption
between Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō and Nāpau Crater on Kīlauea’s east rift zone produced
lava flows that poured into a pre-existing ground crack and advanced
through an ‘ōhi‘a forest. For scale, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
scientists (lower right) can be seen walking toward the flow.
PAST PRESS RELEASES:
NEWS RELEASE 10/1/09 :
Volcano House Hotel inside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be
closing down as of 1/1/10 for at least 6 months due to seismic building
For alternate lodging at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park please go to :
Volcano Bed and Breakfast Lodge /
Volcano Vacation Rentals
On September 17, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park will begin
construction of a permanent entrance station facility. The new structure
will replace the temporary kiosks erected in 1986 when entrance fees were
The new building will provide visitors with "a sense of
entry." The structure will be reminiscent of those built in the park
in the 1930's by the C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps). The lower walls
will have a stonework façade, while the rest of the structure will be
framed of wood with alternating 12" and 6" lap siding and topped
by a corrugated metal hip roof.
The new entrance station will accommodate two lanes of in-coming
traffic, be accessible to people with disabilities, equipped with a
restroom, and wired for the latest in digital communications and security.
The construction contract was awarded to Isemoto Contracting Company of
Hilo. The project is expected to cost $388,000 and take six months to
complete. Isemoto Contracting Company was also awarded a State contract to
improve rainwater drainage and install two overhead street lamps at the
Crater Rim Drive and Highway-11 intersection.
During construction, a single temporary kiosk will be located between
the current entrance station and the Kilauea Visitor Center. Signage and
orange traffic cones will help guide visitors through the construction
zone. The public is asked to drive carefully, heed posted signs, and watch
While construction activities may cause some delays in traffic flow
during the busiest times, the project will ultimately improve visitor
service and safety. It will also enhance the working conditions of the
park entrance station staff who greet the thousands of people who visit
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park each day.