Swarm of earthquakes prompts volcano watch at Hawaii national park


FILE – HVO geophysicist conducts the annual high-precision Global Positioning System (GPS) survey of Kīlauea. This survey location was located on Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone. (USGS/A. Ellis photo)

HONOLULU (KHON) — A swarm of earthquakes beneath the south part of the Big Island of Hawaii, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, was reported Monday evening, raising concerns over whether Kīlauea was erupting.

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Officials have confirmed the volcano is not erupting, but a watch continues to remain in place. The perceptible sequence of earthquakes began at around 4:30 p.m. local time on Monday, with the USGS recording at least nine tremors of at least 2.5 magnitude.

By Tuesday morning, U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) raised the volcano alert level for Kīlauea from Advisory (Yellow) to Watch (Orange) as a result of the onset of earthquakes that coincided with a change in the style of ground deformation in the Kīlauea summit region.

Officials believe the activity could potentially indicate shallow movement of magma beneath the south part of Kīlauea caldera, the crater formed by earlier eruptions.

USGS recorded a number of smaller quakes striking the area near Volcanoes National Park (USGS)

Over 140 earthquakes in total had been recorded as of 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. The largest recorded earthquake had a magnitude of 3.3 with a majority of earthquakes exhibiting a magnitude of 1. Small earthquakes are continuing at a rate of at least 10 detected per hour.

The activity has been confirmed to be confined entirely within the park. No general hazards for the area had been issued as of Tuesday afternoon.

Sections of the park were closed for months after a series of serious eruptions in 2018. Those eruptions included months of earthquakes, damaging ash clouds and the eventual collapse of Kīlauea summit. A section of the park’s Crater Rim Drive dropped into the crater, and many roads and buildings were damaged.

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