Lava effusion rate evolution and erupted volume during the 2018 Kīlauea lower East Rift Zone eruption

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The 2018 eruption on the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano produced one of the largest and most destructive lava flows in Hawai’i during the past 200 years. Over the course of more than 3 months, twenty-four fissures erupted, and the rate of lava effusion varied by two orders of magnitude, with significant implications for evolving flow behavior and hazards. Syn-eruptive data were collected to quantify these changes in lava effusion rate, including video of flow through channels and digital elevation models acquired using small unoccupied aircraft systems, airborne lidar, and airborne single-pass interferometric synthetic aperture radar. Topographic data through time allowed calculation of subaerial lava flow volume and time-averaged discharge rate over the course of the eruption, which we integrated with pre- and post-eruption bathymetric surveys. Repeat videos of the near-vent channel were analyzed with particle velocimetry to extract flow velocities, and these were combined with open channel flow theory to calculate a time series of instantaneous effusion rates. Results show a general increase in dense rock equivalent (DRE) effusion rate from ~7 to ~100 m3/s from early to late May for the whole flow field and ≥ 200 m3/s by mid-June after the eruption had focused at a primary vent. By the end of the eruption in August, 0.9–1.4 km3 DRE of lava had erupted, with 0.4 km3 deposited on land and at least 0.5 km3 offshore. The trends in effusion rate through time reflect magmatic processes in the connected summit and rift zone system that controlled eruption rate, with resulting implications for lava flow dynamics and hazards.




Dietterich, H. R., Diefenbach, A. K., Soule, S. A., Zoeller, M. H., Patrick, M. P., Major, J. J., & Lundgren, P. R. (2021). Lava effusion rate evolution and erupted volume during the 2018 Kīlauea lower East Rift Zone eruption. Bulletin of Volcanology, 83(4).

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