Home Film Resources Shop
Choose a Force


Forces of Nature

Kilauea, HawaiiReturn
A lava fountain shoots molten magma sky-high from Pu`u `O`o (pooh-ooh oh-oh), a cinder cone on Kilauea's east rift zone.
Launch Image Gallery

Type: Shield volcano with a cinder cone

Hawaii's famous Kilauea volcano emerged from the sea more than 50,000 years ago, and it has been active ever since.

Kilauea, formed from an intraplate hot spot, is the most studied volcano in the world. Composed mostly of lava flows, Kilauea also has some deposits from explosive eruptions. It has erupted from three main areas: its summit and two rift zones.

Most of Kilauea's eruptions are relatively gentle lava flows. Lava fountains often shoot the molten magma high in the air before it flows down the mountain's slopes. A spectacular lava fountain during a 1959 eruption from the Kilauea Iki vent soared 1,900 feet (580 meters), a record for a Hawaiian eruption.

Infrequently—every few decades or centuries—powerful eruptions send volcanic debris across the area.

Kilauea's constant lava eruptions have built up the volcano and given it a shieldlike form that is still growing. Currently the shield is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) long and 15 miles (24 kilometers) wide.

The current eruption began in 1983 and has been continuous ever since. It is the most long-lived eruption in documented times.

In the future, scientists say, Kilauea will continue its pattern. Sporadic explosions will cause some destruction, but for the most part the volcano will continue to "drool."

Eruptions will fill the caldera and heighten the summit—constantly renovating and adding on to the legendary ancient home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess.

AmicaNational Science FoundationNational GeographicGirl Scouts: Where Girls Grow Strong