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The Geology of Mt. Kilauea

The Geology of Mt. Kilauea

Mt. Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The Hawaiian name “Kilauea” means spewing or much spreading. Located on the big island of Hawaii, it has had 61 major eruptions in its huge lifetime. Mt. Kilauea has an elevation of 4,200 feet and has an area that consists of 552 square miles.

Common questions asked about Kilauea are: What kinds of forces cause Mt. Kilauea erupt constantly over a long period of time, and why don’t any other volcanoes do this?

In response, the answers to these questions are both tied together with the volcanoes ‘hot spot’. A hot spot for this Hawaiian volcano is located beneath the island and provides magma for eruptions. This hot spot carries constant and steady supplies of magma for the mountain to spew. Not much is known about these “hot spots” beneath the surfaces of these volcanoes.

Since 1983, Mt. Kilauea has been a continuous lava-spitting volcano. Kilauea is approximately 23,000 years old and is considered to be a shield volcano, a composite eruption with basaltic magma. Hundreds of earthquakes happen beneath the volcano and island’s surface. These earthquakes are defined as volcanic activity earthquakes. Some of these quakes have been large enough to send and generate tsunamis or tidal waves. The largest earthquake’s magnitude was measured at a 7.9. This quake made a 15-meter tsunami on April 2nd, 1968 and killed 81 people.

Volcanoes have formed the basic landscape of the Hawaiian Islands. The volcanoes have built this state up to 4,200 feet in elevation! The lava flows generated by Mt. Kilauea have caused mass destruction to Hawaii by burning down houses, cars, and villages. Eruptions, spitting up lava that can exceed 1,ooo degrees, burn anything in its path. This fiery nature-made substance boils into lakes and streams, killing many fish and incinerating wildlife. Sometimes Kilauea’s lava spouts can get up to 200-300 meters high. Often Kilauea’s lava spouts cause huge rocks to fall from the sky. This happens by the lava flying and hardening in mid-air and finally falling to the ground. One of these “flying rocks” has been found up to 3 meters in diameter.

Researchers and scientists find Kilauea to be one of...

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