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 USGS, the earthquake, with an epicenter of 32.2 km, struck at 12:43 pm local time (6:43 pm ET.) Hundreds of people reported feeling the earthquake across the southern part of Hawaii Island using the USGS “Did you feel it?” tool on their website.
While the earthquake is not far from the world’s largest most active volcano, Mauna Loa, this earthquake hit on the southwest rift zone of the smaller, nearby Kilauea Volcano, which is currently erupting.
The jolt was strong enough for the National Weather Service Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu, Hawaii on the island of Oahu, to issue a bulletin. “No tsunami is expected. However, some areas may have experienced shaking,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in their bulletin. “This will be the only statement issued for this event unless additional data are received.”
Over the weekend, an earthquake swarm unfolded near the summit of nearby Mauna Loa volcano. Earthquakes tend to be swarming from two points recently: one being near the summit of Mauna Loa, and the other near the town of Pahala where today’s earthquake hit. Some scientists believe the primary flow of magma feeding the volcanoes is located deep under Pahala; earthquakes could mean magma is traveling deep below the surface to Kilauea, Mauna Loa, or perhaps both.
While Kilauea is actively erupting, all of the lava flows are contained to inside the deep Kilauea Summit caldera. Tourists can drive up to and walk around large parts of the Caldera and peer into the volcano from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Unlike the incident that unfolded in 2018 during the Kilauea Lower East Rift Zone eruption, the volcanic activity there is confined to the volcano summit and doesn’t pose an immediate threat to nearby neighborhoods at this time.
Mauna Loa is not currently erupting but that could change, warn USGS scientists. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists with USGS continue to urge caution and preparation for the eventual day Mauna Loa will erupt again. “While an eruption of Mauna Loa is not imminent, now is the time to revisit personal eruption plans. Similar to preparing for hurricane season, having an eruption plan in advance helps during an emergency,” said HVO in an earlier statement.
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.