HONOLULU (KHON2) — Scientist-in-Charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Ken Hon, spoke with KHON2.com on all things Kilauea.

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The Kilauea volcano is one of the two southernmost volcanos in Hawaii located on the Big Island.

Hon stated this volcano is among the most active in the world in terms of eruptions and production of lava over time.

“There’s quite a few other places in Italy, Vanuatu and some of the places that have frequently active volcanoes, but they don’t produce as much lava as Kilauea does,” said Hon.

The summit of Kilauea sits on the south flank of Mauna Loa and though it is smaller than Mauna Loa, it is not small in size.

Hon said this volcano extends out into the Pacific Ocean from the summit for about 90 miles and is 18,500 feet below sea level while rising up to 4000 feet above sea level.

In total this volcano is about 22,000 feet tall.

So, while it’s smaller in volume and younger than its sibling Mauna Loa, it is still a giant among other volcanoes.”

Ken Hon, Scientist in charge at the USGS Hawaiian volcano observatory

When was Kilauea formed?

In order to build big islands and keep them above sea level, these volcanoes need to continually be pumping out material, according to Hon.

This volcano puts out about 10 times more than Yellowstone. Hon notes this is because Yellowstone is a super volcano that erupts very few times.

“These volcanoes have to be busy to make these islands out in the middle of the Pacific and they certainly stay that way,” said Hon.

Hon said they have found under sea level where Kilauea “changes from a kind of basalt that we call tholeiitic, which is what’s associated with the big voluminous eruptions, to a kind of basalt that we call alkalic which is from the early stages.”

With this information along with calculating how much volume of lava comes out, they estimate Kilauea to be roughly 200,000 to 300,000 years old.

When was Kilauea’s first eruption?

Hon said they cannot determine when the fist eruption was because, “you’d have to go back into the very core of the volcano which is all heated up and gooey and, there’s no way that we can actually get an age on those rocks even if we had them.”

Was the June 2023 eruption normal for Kilauea?

“Just like people have behavioral phases, our volcanoes have behavioral phases that they go in and out of.”

In 2020, eruptions started up again after depressurizing from the 2018 eruption leaking around 50 years of lava.

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Hon said, “We see the summit repressurizing right now. And what is Pele doing? She’s repairing those holes that happened during the 2018 eruption. She’s already filled in the deepest one.”