Volcano Watch: Young activity in the Southwest Rift Zone

  • View looking southwest along the Southwest Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano. The unvegetated nature of the Southwest Rift Zone is on full display with the Keanakako‘i Tephra in the foreground overlying lava flows from Cone Peak (the cone in the middle ground to the right). In the background are the cones of Pu‘ukoa‘e (left of center) and the Kamakai‘a Hills (three hills in center). Photograph taken by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist D. Downs on Oct. 22, 2020. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Kilauea’s East Rift Zone has been particularly newsworthy over the past 40 years with Pu‘u ‘O‘o erupting nearly continuously from 1983 to 2018 followed by the 2018 eruption that started in Leilani Estates. The summit of Kilauea also saw eruptions in April and September of 1982 and the 2008-18 lava lake which drained and was followed by impressive collapses from May to September 2018. The newly enlarged Halema‘uma‘u Crater is currently filling with lava from an eruption that began in December of 2020. The frequent summit and East Rift Zone eruptions often seem to overshadow Kilauea’s Southwest Rift Zone, which extends southwest from Halema‘uma‘u to the coast about 3 miles southeast of Pahala.