Guest Videos: Meanwhile, at Kilauea…


Mauna Loa made headlines this week with its eruption, but Kilauea — located on the giant volcano’s flank and several hundred thousand years younger than Mauna Loa — just keeps chugging away.

Did you know that Kilauea’s summit caldera collapsed in 2018?

It happened while most of us were watching lava rampage through neighborhoods and fields down in the East Rift.



Here it is in more detail:



After the 2018 eruption ended, Kilauea had a big hole in its summit and started to develop a small crater lake.

Then one night in late 2020, suddenly lava!



Yes, suddenly — on the night of December 20-21, 2020, lava just poured out of one of the caldera’s walls. There is no break in this time-lapse recording.


What did the scientists think of that?



Now, none of these things are unusual; they just haven’t been recorded in such detail before.

We are the first people in human history able to watch Kilauea (and by extension, other basalt giants) operate in real time.

The volcano almost seems to have a slow heartbeat.



This is the article mentioned in the video. The lava-filled crater can also sink at times.


What’s next for Kilauea?

The only thing we can be certain of is that it will continue to do its thing.

It’s more active than Mauna Loa. Although the two sometimes do erupt together, as in 1975, 1984, and now, sources that I’ve read are still debating whether the two volcanoes actually interact.

Kilauea’s geologic record is readable, though.

Three USGS photos of Dr. Swanson at various career points. Full photographer credits available in the book introduction PDF that you really should read; it’s free and, again, can be downloaded here.

If you have a couple hours and want to explore its summit and history over the last 500 years (including some surprisingly explosive and deadly blasts), here is a virtual field trip hosted by the most famous geologist you’ve probably never heard of — boffins dedicated a whole book of research papers to him (PDF of biographic intro available to download here).

It might not be what you expect.

The video below wasn’t filmed to draw eyeballs online. The excursion was done in 2020 before lava suddenly returned. It’s a real field trip, full of walking and other distractions, and given by someone who is the Geology equivalent of a Jedi master, and who fled wonder a long time ago and has made his home in science for more than half a century.

Cool! — but not always something we laypeople might get right away.

But when this walk is over, you’ll never look at Kilauea and its summit area quite the same way again because you will have seen it through the eyes of someone knowledgeable who was purposefully laying the groundwork for you to (someday, maybe, in our case) go there and discover something about this volcano on your own.



The views of Mauna Loa really give you a feel for how big that fire mountain is, even just counting the part above sea level!


Featured image: maridav/Shutterstock



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