Volcano Watch: The 2018 eruption of Kilauea was big on a global scale

This photo, taken on June 24, 2018, shows lava fountains from fissure 8 providing a vigorous supply of lava that exited the cinder cone and dropped over a spillway to enter a well-established lava channel that extended to the sea in lower Puna. Fissure 8 was the dominant vent during Kilauea’s 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption; the cone feature constructed around it was officially named Ahuʻailaʻau in 2021. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Let’s start with what we know about the size of the 2018 eruption. Recent measurements by U.S. Geological Survey researcher Hannah Dietterich and collaborators using digital elevation models and unoccupied aircraft systems have produced an estimate of the volume of the 2018 lava flow. The high-end estimate is 1.4 cubic kilometers (or about 0.34 cubic miles). The estimate has a range because it is difficult to measure the volume of the lava that poured into the ocean.