Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 35–46

Origin of differentiated lavas at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Implications from the 1955 eruption

  • Ritchie A. Ho
  • Michael O. Garcia


Kilauea's 1955 eruption was the first major eruption (longer than 2 days) on its east rift zone in 115 years. It lasted 88 days during which 108 × 106 m3 of lava was erupted along a discontinuous, 15-km-long system of fissures. A wide compositional range of lavas was erupted including the most differentiated lavas (5.0 wt% MgO) from a historic Kilauea eruption. Lavas from the first half of the eruption are strongly differentiated (5.0–5.7 wt% MgO); later lavas are weakly to moderately differentiated (6.2–6.7 wt% MgO). Previous studies using only major-element compositions invoked either crystal fractionation (Macdonald and Eaton 1964) or magma mixing (Wright and Fiske 1971) as models to explain the wide compositional variation in the lavas. To further evaluate these models detailed petrographic, mineralogical, and whole-rock, major, and trace element XRF analyses were made of the 1955 lavas. Plagioclase and clinopyroxene in the early and late lavas show no petrographic evidence for magma mixing. Olivines from both the early and late lavas show minor resorption, which is typical of tholeiitic lavas with low MgO contents. Core-to-rim microprobe analyses across olivine, augite, and plagioclase mineral grains give no evidence of disequilibrium features related to mixing. Instead, plots of An/Ab vs distance from the core (D) and %Fo vs (D)4.5 generated essentially linear trends indicative of simple crystal fractionation. Least-squares, mass-balance calculations for major- and trace-element data using observed mineral compositions yield excellent results for crystal fractionation (sum of residuals squared <0.01 for major elements, and <5% for trace elements); magma mixing produced less satisfactory results especially for Cr. Furthermore, trace-element plots of Zr vs Sr, Cr, and A12O3 generate curved trends indicative of crystal fractionation processes. There is no evidence that mixing occurred in the 1955 lavas. Instead, the data are best explained by crystal fractionation involving a reservoir that extends at least 15 km along Kilauea's east rift zone. A dike was intruded into the rift zone from the summit reservoir eight days after the eruption started. Instead of causing magma mixing, the dike probably acted as a hydraulic plunger forcing more of the stored magma to be erupted.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ritchie A. Ho
    • 1
  • Michael O. Garcia
    • 1
  1. 1.Hawaii Institute of GeophysicsUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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