Kilauea And The Volcanism Of The Hawaiian Islands

1859 words - 7 pages

Kilauea is in the Hawaiian island chain, one of several dome volcanoes that form the big island of Hawaii. The unique feature of the islands stands in contrast to what we know about global plate tectonic theory and volcanoes that have formed around the ring of fire in the Pacific Ocean. Kilauea and the Hawaiian volcanic chain are driven by a geologic hot spot that is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Thomas Jager was one of the pioneer researchers of Hawaiian volcanism and opened the way for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory established in 1912.
Kilauea and the Hawaiian volcanic chain are known for their gentle eruptions which are result of their basaltic magmas with low viscosity and low gas content. This forms fluid flows of lava with temperatures near 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. These conditions allow for research and close observation during active volcanic episodes currently ongoing at Kilauea and nearby sites. Investigations by the use of long-period seismicity have given us a better understanding of the hydrothermal systems beneath volcanoes like Kilauea. Earthquakes generally happen around magma body intrusions from the raised heat and pressure triggering acoustic vibrations. By plotting long-period waveforms points of origin, we can get a picture of the size and depth of the magma body. Research points to the existence of a horizontal crack at 150 m near the Halemaumau crater, a pit located within the summit caldera of Kilauea. This crack caused by leaking gases raised the overall hydrothermal pressure and caused a rapid increase of volcanic fluid ( Kumagai, Hiroyuki, Bernard A. Chouet, and Phillip B. Dawson 2005). Long-period seismicity has enhanced our understanding of volcanoes hydrothermal structure.
Two years later a new group of researchers re-evaluated the findings of long-period signals and gave new insights and better understanding into source mechanisms of long-period signals. The new discovery’s led to better modeling of complex three dimensional structures along with better interpretation of long-period data in volcanic regions. The inclusion of topography along with this data led to similar more precise data confirming the developing crack at Kilauea volcano (Cesca, S., J. Battaglia, T. Dahm, E. Tessmer, S. Heimann, and P. Okubo 2008).
The magma pipe structure under Kilauea has long been a source of argument among researchers with some speculation that such pipes must be a few kilometers in radius. The current most active zone of the Kilauea volcano has been diverted from the caldera by a horizontal crack causing a flank eruption zone. Recent research suggests that flexural stresses explain this horizontal fault zone. This stress can be seen by the formation of Hawaiian island chain itself which is over one-thousand miles long. Tectonic plate flexure beneath the island chain is moving northwesterly about four inches a year, causing shear stress on measurable horizontal planes. Measurements of this stress at a...

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