Strong earthquake rocks Hawaii near world’s largest volcano; No tsunami threat

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A 4.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Big Island of Hawaii this afternoon. Image: USGS

A strong 4.5 magnitude earthquake struck near the town of Pahala on the southeast coast of the Big Island of Hawaii a short time ago. According to the USGS, the earthquake, with an epicenter of 32.2 km, struck at 12:43 p.m. local time (6:43 p.m. ET). Hundreds of people reported feeling the earthquake in the southern part of the island of Hawaii using the USGS “Do you smell it?” tool on their website.

While the earthquake is not far from the world’s largest most active volcano, Mauna Loa, this earthquake struck the southwest rift zone of the nearby smaller volcano Kilauea, which is currently erupting.

The tremor was strong enough that the National Weather Service Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, issued a bulletin. “No tsunami is forecast. However, some areas may have experienced shaking,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in its bulletin. “This will be the only statement issued for this event unless additional data is received. “

Over the weekend, a swarm of earthquakes unfolded near the summit of nearby volcano Mauna Loa. Earthquakes have tended to proliferate from two points recently: one near the summit of Mauna Loa and the other near the town of Pahala, where today’s earthquake struck. Some scientists believe that the main flow of magma feeding the volcanoes is located deep beneath Pahala; earthquakes could mean magma is traveling deep below the surface to Kilauea, Mauna Loa, or possibly both.

While Kilauea is actively erupting, all lava flows are contained within Kilauea’s deep summit caldera. Tourists can drive up and walk around large parts of the caldera and view the volcano from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Unlike the incident that unfolded in 2018 during the Lower Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea, volcanic activity here is confined to the top of the volcano and does not pose an immediate threat to nearby neighborhoods for the moment.

Mauna Loa is not currently erupting, but that could change, warn USGS scientists. USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory (HVO) scientists continue to urge caution and preparation for the day Mauna Loa erupts again. “Although a Mauna Loa eruption is not imminent, now is the time to review personal eruption plans. Similar to preparing for hurricane season, having an eruption plan in advance helps in case emergency,” the HVO said in an earlier statement.

Mauna Loa eruptions tend to produce large, fast-moving lava flows that can impact communities on the east and west sides of the Big Island, from Kona to Hilo. Since the 1850s, Hilo in eastern Hawaii has been threatened by 7 lava flows from Mauna Loa. On the south and west sides of the island, lava flows from Mauna Loa have reached the coast there 8 times: in 1859, 1868, 1887, 1926, 1919, and three times in 1950.

This map shows the response time people can expect based on Mauna Loa eruptions over the past 200 years.  Different areas around Mauna Loa are colored based on how quickly lava flows can reach populated areas.  The warmer the color, the faster the flows travel.  Lava flows from Mauna Loa over the past 200 years are shown in gray, and numbers along the coast indicate lava travel times to the ocean after the vents opened.  Large bold numbers record the average effusion rates for different parts of the volcano in millions of cubic meters per day (Mm3/d).  Image: USGS
This map shows the response time people can expect based on Mauna Loa eruptions over the past 200 years. Different areas around Mauna Loa are colored based on how quickly lava flows can reach populated areas. The warmer the color, the faster the flows travel. Lava flows from Mauna Loa over the past 200 years are shown in gray, and numbers along the coast indicate lava travel times to the ocean after the vents opened. Large bold numbers record the average effusion rates for different parts of the volcano in millions of cubic meters per day (Mm3/d). Image: USGS

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