Kīlauea's Upper East Rift Zone: A Rift Zone in Name Only

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Donald A Swanson, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hawaii National Park, HI, United States and Richard S Fiske, Smithsonian Inst, Washington, DC, United States
Kīlauea's upper east rift zone (UERZ) extends ~3 km southeastward from the summit caldera to the Koaʻe fault system, where it starts to bend into the main part of the ENE-trending rift zone. The UERZ lacks a distinct positive gravity anomaly (though coverage is poor) and any evidence of deformation associated with magma intrusion. All ground ruptures—and the Puhimau thermal area—trend ENE, crossing the UERZ at a high angle. Lua Manu, Puhimau, and Koʻokoʻolau craters are the only surface evidence of the UERZ. Yet the UERZ is seismically active, and all magma entering the rest of the rift zone must pass through it. Rather than a rift zone in the traditional sense, with abundant dikes and ground ruptures along its trend, the UERZ cuts across the ENE structural grain and serves only as a connector to the rest of the rift zone, not a locus of dike formation along its length. The UERZ probably developed as a consequence of gradual SSE migration of the active part of the main east rift zone at the trailing edge of the south flank. During migration, a connection to the summit reservoir complex must be maintained; otherwise, the middle and lower east rift zone would starve and magma from Kīlauea's summit reservoir complex would have to go elsewhere. Over time, the UERZ lengthened and rotated clockwise to maintain the connection. Near the caldera, the UERZ may be widening westward as the summit reservoir complex migrates southward from the center of the caldera to its present position. A layered stress regime results in the upper 2–3 km mimicking the pervasive ENE structural grain of most of Kīlauea, whereas the underlying magmatic part of the UERZ responds to stresses related to SE magma transport. Magma intruding upward from the connector forms a dike that follows the ENE structural grain, as during the 1974 eruption. The active east rift zone has been migrating since ~100 ka, estimated by applying a 700-y extension rate across the Koa‘e fault system to the ~6.5 km of migration, and presumably the UERZ connector has been developing during this time.