Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has researchers and seismologists in Hawaii on edge. In the last few days, researchers identified small earthquakes at the highest rate to date, which has set a new record at one earthquake every couple of minutes. With these seismic changes, it has prompted the researchers with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to issue a special information statement:
“Activity at the summit of Kilauea Volcano continues to change, as shown by a pronounced drop in the level of the lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, a change in the summit area deformation pattern, and the concentrated earthquake activity in the southern part of the caldera and upper Southwest Rift Zone. This statement reviews recent observations and briefly summarizes what might be expected next at Kilauea.”
Lava lake drops 500 feet at Kilauea:
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT
These recent changes at the summit of Kilauea suggest that magma has moved into a shallow area beneath the southern part of the caldera and upper Southwest Rift Zone.
It is not possible to predict the exact outcome of this activity, but we identify three possible scenarios that could play out in the coming days to weeks:
- Magma continues to accumulate in the southern part of Kilauea’s summit caldera and upper Southwest Rift Zone at shallow depths, but then stops with no eruption.
- Magma continues to accumulate in the southern part of the caldera at shallow depths and leads to a rapid intrusion into the Southwest Rift Zone. Such an intrusion could remain within the rift zone, or erupt along the rift zone. A rift zone intrusion would be indicated by a swarm of shallow earthquakes, seismic tremors, and large, rapid changes in the deformation of the ground surface.
- Magma continues to accumulate in the southern part of the caldera, rises toward the surface, and erupts in the upper Southwest Rift Zone, and/or in the caldera. With this scenario, we would expect to see even stronger earthquake activity and/or seismic tremors in the southern part of the caldera, as well as ground cracks.
The overall unrest in Kilauea’s summit area and upper rift zones in the coming weeks to months is uncertain.
The magma storage system within Kilauea is highly pressurized at this time, and future changes in the location of unrest, and the potential for eruption, could unfold quickly (in days to hours).
It will be interesting to see what develops over the next few days and weeks.