Saturday, February 25, 2012

[Geology2] Earthquake swarm continues between Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes

Earthquake swarm continues between Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes

Reported by: Ron Mizutani

Published: 2/24
Getty Images
Getty Images

A 4.3-magnitude earthquake rocked Hawaii Island early Friday morning.  The tremor was centered three miles from Kilauea volcano and is the largest of more than 100 small quakes in a swarm that started early Wednesday morning.  Hawaii Island residents were awakened at 3:52 a.m. by the sound of books falling to the floor.

"This is the kind of event when you feel it, you feel like a truck just hit your house and it's a fairly quick jolt and then it's gone," says Wes Thelen, the Seismic Network Manager for the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.  "But that quick jolt can obviously knock things off shelves and rattle dishes pretty loudly."

Scientists say the 4.3 magnitude earthquake was about 24 miles southwest of Hilo.  It came nearly seven hours after a 4.1 magnitude quake struck the same area last night.

"Both quakes were felt island wide," says Thelen. 

 And both struck on land so there was no tsunami danger. 

Staff at the USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory reported small ceiling fixtures being dislodged. 

Scientists say other than a small rock fall in an active vent within Halema'uma'u Crater at the summit of Kilauea, there were no immediate reports of damage.

The earthquakes are located along a fault near the boundary between Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes.  The area has seen previous seismic swarms in 1990, '93, '97 and 2006.

"Each of those swarms had magnitude 4's associated with them," says Thelen.  "The fault that this is occuring on really isn't capable of a much larger event.  It would have to be another structure, deeper."

Scientists say seismic swarms sometimes signal a shift in the decades-old eruption in Kilauea's east rift zone but so far monitoring networks have not shown any changes.

"We haven't seen any indication that the magma system at Kilauea or at Mauna Loa has changed at all with respect to these earthquakes," says Thelen.

When asked if the increased activity has had an affect on animals?

"I have not received any reports," says Thelen.  "There are stories that people tell and such that indicate that there may be some connection but it's never been proven scientifically."

Scientists believe this latest swarm could continue for several days.  The last one in 2006, lasted nearly three weeks.

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