Volcano Watch: What is the highest elevation reached by Halemaʻumaʻu lava?

Surveyor Frank Dodge’s 1894 cross-section of Halema‘uma‘u overlaid on his 1892 cross-section. The 1892 lava lake was measured at 73 m (240 ft) below the rim of Halema‘uma‘u pit and by early-1894, the lava lake had filled the pit and frequently overflowed onto the caldera floor. The overlay of these two cross-sections shows a minimum elevation of the 1894 lava lake. (courtesy photo/usgs)

Photograph taken on March 20, 1894 looking up at the Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake perched atop a low dome on the floor of Kaluapele (Kīlauea caldera). (courtesy photo/usgs)

The 2018 collapse of southern Kaluapele (Kilauea caldera) left a pit whose lowest point was about 500 m (1,640 ft) above sea level (asl). Since 2020, that pit has filled to a little over 900 m (2,950 ft) asl and one might wonder how high the lava level could go. We can’t answer that question but we can get an idea by looking to Kilauea’s past.