What Are Some Facts About the Kilauea Volcano?

kilauea-volcano Credit: Montse PB/CC-BY 2.0

Kilauea is a Hawaiian shield volcano that began its latest eruption in 1983 and hasn't stopped. It is found on the southeastern side of Mauna Loa on the Big Island. The eruptions continue at the volcano's Pu`u O`o cinder cone and flow down a magma tube to the sea approximately 7 miles away.

Volcanologists believe that Kilauea is between 300,000 to 600,000 years old, which makes it a young volcano. They also believe that the volcano began life beneath the sea and eventually built itself out of the water through a long series of explosions. Most of the volcano is still underwater.

Except for a period between 1934 and 1952, the volcano has never been quiet. Most of its surface is covered with cooled lava, ash and tephra or debris thrown up by volcanic eruptions. Most of this material is recent and has covered the mountain over the last 1,000 years or so.

Despite the volcano's history, the area around the volcano supports many bird species, including the nene, a goose that's the state bird of Hawaii. The hawksbill sea turtle uses the shore near Kilauea to lay eggs. Some plants, such as rare ferns and vines, also flourish in the land around the volcano.

Appropriately, the name Kilauea means "spewing" in the Hawaiian language.