The 2018 eruption of Kilauea in Hawaii featured the spectacular collapse of the volcano’s caldera, creating a hole nearly as deep as One World Trade Center in New York City is tall at its summit. Now new research finds that this dramatic change was triggered by only a small leak of magma from the reservoir beneath the peak.
Instantaneous and explosive caldera collapses, such as the event that formed Oregon’s Crater Lake 7,700 years ago, are a better known phenomenon. But the new findings suggest that slow-motion collapse events such as Kilauea’s—which are vastly different in nature—may be occurring at volcanoes around the world. In fact, a comparable one occurred at Bardarbunga’s caldera in Iceland between 2014 and 2015.
“What we have learned from these two events (Kilauea and Bardarbunga) is that there may not be much warning,” says geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, who studied the Bardarbunga collapse but was not involved in the new Kilauea research.