While no volcano is currently erupting on the Big Island of Hawaii, an early-morning earthquake jolted some out of bed; the epicenter was located in between Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes, both which stopped erupting just weeks ago. This morning’s earthquake struck at 3:31 am and was rated a magnitude 4.0 event. Specifically, the the epicenter occurred 4 miles northwest of the town of Volcano, Hawaii, at a depth of 12 miles below sea level.
According to USGS, this earthquake occurred in a region of stress interaction between Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes and that the earthquake had no apparent impact on either volcano.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) with USGS continues to monitor Hawaiian volcanoes for any changes.
Kilauea, the youngest and most active volcano on the Island of Hawaii, erupted almost continuously from 1983 to 2018 at Pu‘u‘ō‘ō and other vents along the volcano’s East Rift Zone. From 2008 to 2018, there was a lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u crater at the volcano’s summit. In 2018, Kilauea experienced the largest lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse in at least 200 years. An eruption from December 2020 to May 2021 fed a lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u crater at the summit. From September 29, 2021 through to December of last year, there was an ongoing eruption at the very active volcano, all contained within Halema‘uma‘u crater. About 90 percent of the volcano is covered with lava flows less than 1,100 years in age.
Mauna Loa is considered the largest active volcano on Earth, rising to 13,681 feet above sea level. Mauna Loa rises up from the ocean floor of the Central Pacific at a depth of about 3 miles. Because of the volcano’s significant mass, the ocean floor directly beneath Mauna Loa is depressed by another 5 miles. According to USGS, this places Mauna Loa’s summit about 56,000 feet above its base; the enormous volcano covers half of the island of Hawaii, also known simply as the “Big Island of Hawaii.”
Mauna Loa eruptions tend to produce voluminous, 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 Mauna Loa lava flows. On the south and west sides of the island, Mauna Loa lava flows have reached the coast there 8 times: in 1859, 1868, 1887, 1926, 1919, and three times in 1950. The 2022 eruption created a flow that advanced towards an important highway on Hawaii Island, but never crossed it. In addition, it never reached any populated areas nor did it reach any coastline.
Dr. Ken Hon, Scientist-in-Charge of HVO, told reporters in a morning press conference on December 13 that Mauna Loa is no longer erupting. Lava supply to an active fissure on the Northeast Rift Zone, which was fountaining lava up to 500′ high at times, ceased on December 10 while sulfur dioxide emissions have decreased to near pre-eruption background levels. While Mauna Loa went quiet, so did Kilauea. Lava supply to the Halema’uma’u lave lake ceased on December 9 based on lava lake levels and behavior of the crater floor. HVO says sulfur dioxide emissions have decreased to near pre-eruption background levels.