The Geology of the Kilauea Volcano (Hawaii)

Volcanoes are mountains formed by the accumulation of materials erupted through one or more openings in the Earth’s surface.   Most volcanoes have steep sides, but some can be gently sloping mountains or even flat tablelands, plateaus, or plains. The volcanoes above sea level are the best known, such as Mount Kilauea, but the majority of the world’s volcanoes lie beneath the ocean, which are formed along the global oceanic ridge systems along the ocean floor. According to the Smithsonian Institution, more than 1,500 volcanoes above sea level have been active during the past 10,000 years and about a third of them erupting one or more times during written history. (MSN Encarta, 2009) Tilling (1999) wrote that “One of the most spectacular, awesomely beautiful, and at times destructive displays of natural energy is an erupting volcano, belching fume and ash thousands of meters into the atmosphere and pouring out red-hot molten lava in fountains and streams.”

Mount Kilauea is one of the world’s largest active volcanoes, yet its effusive eruptions generally pose little threat to residents of Hawaii (Cook, 1982). It is located in the Hawaiian Islands of the United States of America, precisely 19.421° N and 155.287° W (Global Volcanism Program, 2009). Its low, broad shape resembles a warrior`s shield (NASA, 2009). Since January 3, 1983, Mount Kilauea has been continually erupting until this very day. This current eruption is also known as the Puʻu ʻOʻo - Kupaianaha eruption (Fischer, 2009). Kilauea is the youngest major shield volcano now protruding above sea level, and much of its mass is under water. The shield dimensions are 180 km by 75 km, elevated at 1,250 m, or 6,750 m above seafloor. The caldera (a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption) dimensions of the caldera are 3.5 by 5 km, and the depth has exceeded 270 m. (Holcomb, 1990)
Hawaiian History
The Hawaiian Islands (which are...