There are thousands of extinct volcanoes on Planet Earth. However, there is a place where volcanoes are still very active. This place is Hawaii. And in The Big Island, there is one of them who is currently erupting. His name is Kilauea, and it regularly spits out lava. So, why is Kilauea still active?

Kilauea is still active because there is a hot spot filled with magma under Hawaii and it is located just under Kilauea right now. Since the Pacific Ocean floor is moving only 3 and 1/2 inches per year westwards, Kilauea will be active for a long time on a human scale.

It is the same hot spot that created the whole Hawaii archipelago.

To understand really how Hawaii and Kilauea formed and why it will still be active for a long time, the best is to watch this video from Smithsonian Channel.

For how long will Kilauea be active?

Kilauea is an active shield volcano, that is what we know about it. But what about the future? It would be great for the Hawaiian people to know when the Kilauea will stop erupting. So, for how long will Kilauea be active?

Kilauea will probably be active for at least 550,000 more years. At this point in the future, Kilauea will become a dormant volcano.

Indeed, Kilauea is around 250,000 years old. Since the Pacific Ocean floor is going at a 3.5 inches/year pace, this means the ocean floor already traveled 22.5 kilometers since Kilauea was formed.

There are 21 miles (34 kilometers) between Kilauea and Mauna Loa, and Mauna Loa is still active. So, this means that this distance is not long enough to know if Kilauea will be active.

distance between kilauea and mauna loa
Distance between Kilauea and Mauna Loa

However, there are 31.72 miles (51.06 kilometers) between Kilauea and Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano, which means that it is not considered inactive, but is unlikely to erupt.

distance between kilauea and mauna kea

This piece of data means that Kilauea will need to travel at least 30 more miles (50 more kilometers) on the Pacific Ocean floor to become a dormant volcano. At a pace of 3.5 inches per year, this makes the trip 562429.6 years long. Basically, Kilauea will be active for at least 550,000 more years.

How often does Kilauea erupt? Is it always active?

This shield volcano will probably be active for a long time then. The Hawaiian people will have to live with it. In fact, they are now used to it. Even if the regular eruptions cause material damage to the nearest city, called Volcano, there are very few deaths to relate to because of Kilauea. But, how often does Kilauea erupt?

Kilauea erupts approximately once every two years. Kilauea last erupted in December 2020, and it also erupted back in May 2018. Between 1952 and 2021 (around 70 years), Kilauea erupted 35 times, averaging one eruption every two years.

With this kind of historical record, one eruption every two years for seventy years, we can almost say that Kilauea is always active.

Will Kilauea erupt again soon?

Since Kilauea erupts relatively often, it would be interesting to know when it will erupt again. This is the dream of volcanologists: predict the time of the next eruptions. It’s not that they enjoy watching lava burning nature, it is in order to prepare the populations for upcoming eruptions.

This mission is the core of volcanologists’ mission. Just like seismologists try to predict the upcoming earthquakes, volcanologists try to predict the next eruptions. But how accurate are they when it comes to Kilauea? Will Kilauea erupt soon again?

Assuming that Kilauea erupts almost non-stop since 1952 and that it averages one eruption every two years, we can say that Kilauea will erupt soon. This article is written in January 2021, meaning that the next eruption would occur in late 2022.

However, there is no such rule to predict eruptions. Eruptions occur because of lots of different factors that we cannot all measure. This is what creates the uncertainty behind eruptions.

If you want to follow the most recent activity of Kilauea, in order to know about the next eruption possibilities, you should watch the webcam set in the area.

Volcanoes are watched very closely by scientists. They set some cameras in the area to make sure the volcano is not erupting. The following link will take you to a Kilauea Webcam to follow today’s activity.

You can also check activity updates of the Kilauea eruption. Some videos are live on YouTube to follow the latest news. Scientists also make regular points and post them on YouTube to let people know about the most recent activity of Kilauea.

lava flowing near active volcano kilauea
Lava flowing on Big Island, Hawaii. This picture shows why Hawaii is really lava land. Hawaii is called lava land because the lava flowing solidifies and creates the ground. Picture from Jiaying

When did Kilauea first erupt?

Kilauea last erupted in December 2020 at the time this article is written. But it is also interesting to learn about the past of the volcano. Indeed, in order to predict future eruptions, scientists use all the data they can find in the past. One great piece of data to help them is the date of the first eruption. So, when did Kilauea first erupt?

It is impossible to know when Kilauea first erupted. Historical records agree on the fact that there was an eruption already back in 1750, but in fact, there were eruptions probably a lot longer before that time.

The hot spot that created the Hawaii archipelago is active for at least 80 million years, so eruptions are nothing new for Hawaii. The thing that changes is the name of the volcano. Currently, since the hot spot is located under Kilauea, it is Kilauea that is erupting.

If you love nature and its dangers, you should read the other articles I wrote about the Great Blue Hole and Madeira airport. If you are more into Hawaii-like islands, you should read the article I wrote about Bali’s cheap lifestyle.

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