Kilauea is an active volcano located in the Hawaiian Islands. It is the youngest volcano that lies on the Island of Hawaii, USA, in the southeastern region. It is one of the five shield volcanoes, which form the Island of Hawaii. Mount Kilauea frequently pours out lava and hence is named so. In the Hawaiian language, the word, ‘Kilauea’ means ‘much spreading’.
Kilauea is a low and flat shield volcano that rises only 1,247 meters above sea level. Till date, the Kilauea volcano is the most active and the most visited volcano in the world. Most of the moisture from the trade winds of the northeast is forced out due to Mt. Kilauea. This leaves most of the surrounding region in the rain shadow. Moreover the Hawaii volcano emits sulphur dioxide through its frequent eruptions. These factors produce a desert effect in the Kilauea region. The winds that flow in this region carry along the ash produced by the volcano, causing dunes and dust storms. The Mt. Kilauea volcano has its own magma-plumbing system extending to the surface from a depth of about 60 km below the Earth’s surface. The lava is basalt. The lava erupting from the volcano cone flows through a tube system down the Pulama Pali about 11 km to the sea.
Mt. Kilauea has erupted 62 times in 245 years. The eruption that has begun in 1983 still continues. The eruptions at mt. Kilauea occur mainly from either the summit caldera or along the Eat and Southwest rift zones, which run parallel to the coastline. Much of the lava flows to the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the surface of Kilauea is comprised of lava that is around 1,000 years old while some part of the surface is about 600 years old.
The latest eruption that began on January 3, 1983 continues to produce lava flows, which travel about 12 km from the vent to the sea. Some of the major eruptions in the past include the one in 1790 that ended several lives and the one in 1990, which destroyed the towns of Kalapana and Kaimu. Eruption columns are known to have attained large heights like 15-20 km. The eruptions create volcanic smog. This affects the islands of Hawaii such as the famous Honolulu island when winds from the south or the southeast blow over it. The eructation of the Hawaii volcano in the recent times was the one on February 25, 2008. It destroyed three deserted houses in that area.
On March 5 of the same year, the lava of this volcano reached the ocean off the Puna coast. This had created a brilliant display of light and color. The Civil Defense officials of Hawaii have set up a viewing center for the public to observe the display. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park exhibits the results of long years of volcanism, migration and evolution. The park offers views of volcanic landscapes and hosts all the information about two of the world’s most active volcanoes. The park serves as home for the flora and fauna native to the Hawaii Islands. It continues to be a popular tourist spot for the visitors world over. The Hawaiian Volcano laboratory has been set up to enable the researchers in volcanology to study the mount Kilauea volcano. It continues to interest scientists across the world.
The Mt. Kilauea volcano, believed as being the present home of the volcano goddess, Pele, is undoubtedly one of the wonders of nature.