A Decade of Geodetic Change at Kīlauea’s Summit— Observations, Interpretations, and Unanswered Questions from Studies of the 2008–2018 Halema‘uma‘u Eruption

Professional Paper 1867-G
By: , and 



On March 19, 2008, a small explosion heralded the onset of an extraordinary eruption at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. The following 10 years provided unprecedented access to an actively circulating lava lake located within a region monitored by numerous geodetic tools, including Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), tilt, and gravity. These datasets revealed a range of processes occurring on widely different timescales. Over years, pressure change within the summit magmatic system, determined from ground deformation and lava-lake surface height, seems to have been governed by broad variations in the rate of magma supply from the mantle to the volcano’s shallow magmatic system, as well as changes in the efficiency of East Rift Zone (ERZ) magma transport and eruption. Over weeks to months, intrusions at the summit and along the ERZ, where new eruptive vents commonly formed and intrusions were primed by extension from south-flank motion, were a result of short-term increases in magma supply or waning lava effusion from the ERZ. Waning lava effusion caused magma to back up behind the ERZ eruptive vent all the way to the summit. ERZ intrusions and eruptions caused rapid depressurization of the summit magmatic system, whereas summit intrusions resulted in complex deformation patterns as magma moved to and from two main sub-caldera storage areas. Over hours to days, pressure changes were caused by episodic deflation-inflation (DI) events and possibly small summit intrusions, and deformation of the rim of the summit eruptive vent revealed instabilities that indicated an increased potential for collapse and minor explosive activity. Finally, over timescales of minutes to hours, gas pistoning, summit explosions, very-long-period seismic events, and even the airborne eruptive plume had clear manifestations in geodetic datasets, providing insights into the causes and consequences of those processes. The diversity and quantity of geodetic observations shed important light on this exceptional and well-documented decade-long summit eruption and its accompanying phenomena, yet numerous questions remain about the causal mechanisms, physical processes, and magmatic conditions associated with eruptive and intrusive activity.

Suggested Citation

Poland, M.P., Miklius, A., Johanson, I.A., and Anderson, K.R., 2021, A decade of geodetic change at Kīlauea’s summit—Observations, interpretations, and unanswered questions from studies of the 2008–2018 Halemaʻumaʻu eruption, chap. G of Patrick, M., Orr, T., Swanson, D., and Houghton, B., eds., The 2008–2018 summit lava lake at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaiʻi: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1867, 29 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/pp1867G.

ISSN: 2330-7102 (online)

ISSN: 1044-9612 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Deformation Monitoring at Kīlauea’s Summit during 1912–2008 and Insights into the Volcano’s Magmatic Plumbing System
  • Geodetic Monitoring at Kīlauea’s Summit, 2008–2018
  • 10-Year Time Series
  • Major Summit Transient Deformation Events
  • Minor Summit Transient Deformation Events
  • Micro Summit Transient Deformation Events
  • Unanswered Questions
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title A decade of geodetic change at Kīlauea’s summit—Observations, interpretations, and unanswered questions from studies of the 2008–2018 Halemaʻumaʻu eruption
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1867
Chapter G
DOI 10.3133/pp1867G
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Volcano Science Center
Description vi, 29 p.
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Kīlauea volcano
Online Only (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details