Geography Facts about Kīlauea

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Kīlauea is the youngest and most southeastern volcano on Hawaii island, the largest island in the archipelago of eight major islands, atolls, seamounts, and islets that form the state of Hawaii.

Kīlauea is one of five volcanos that form the Big Island of Hawaii. All five volcanoes are shield volcanoes which have a low profile.

The other four volcanos are:

  • Kohala – extinct
  • Mauna Kea – dormant
  • Hualālai – dormant
  • Mauna Loa – active, partly within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

The summit of Kīlauea is 4,091 feet (1,247 meter)

Kīlauea is the most active of the volcanoes on the island of Hawaii

The most active of the five volcanoes on the island of Hawaii is Kīlauea. In the Hawaiian language, the name means “spewing” or “much spreading” .

Aerial view of Kīlauea at Kapoho Bay.  A lava delta about 250 acres in size is filling the bay on June 12, 2018. Photo: USGS, public domain.
Aerial view of Kīlauea at Kapoho Bay. A lava delta about 250 acres in size is filling the bay on June 12, 2018. Photo: USGS, public domain.

Magma

Kīlauea is located along the southeastern flank of the nearby volcano Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano. Kīlauea was originally believed to be a satellite of Mauna Loa. However, Klauea has its own magma-plumbing system that extends to the surface from more than 60 km below the earth’s surface.

Island of Hawai‘i map, showing Mauna Loa and the other four volcanoes that make up the island.
Island of Hawai‘i map, showing Kīlauea and the other four volcanoes that make up the island. Map: USGS, public domain.

Eruptions

Kīlauea has erupted 35 times since 1952.

The most current eruption is ongoing as of September 30, 2021. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected glow in Klauea summit webcam images at approximately 3:20 p.m. HST on September 29, 2021, indicating that an eruption had begun within Halemaumau crater in Klauea’s summit caldera.

The eruption within Halema'uma'u, at Kīlauea summit within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Photo: USGS web cam, public domain.
The eruption within Halema’uma’u, at Kīlauea summit within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Photo: USGS web cam, public domain.

From December 2020 to May 2021, a summit eruption created a lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u crater.

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