Hawaii volcano: Earthquake swarm rocks world’s biggest volcano – but will it erupt?

Lava spews from Mauna Loa volcano in archive footage

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More than 130 shallow earthquakes have rocked the Hawaii volcano since Monday, March 29. The swarm was first detected at about 2.30am local time under Mauna Loa’s northwest flank. The active shield volcano sits in the central part of Hawai’i Island where it has been erupting for the past 400,000 years or so.

According to a USGS advisory published on Wednesday morning, the earthquakes have been striking in clusters between 3.5 and five miles underground.

The biggest tremor so far was a magnitude 2.7 event that was felt by one person.

The bulk of the activity, however, has only averaged less than magnitude 2.

Since the chaos and devastation caused by Mount Kilauea’s eruption in 2018, Hawaii has been on high alert for more volcanic activity.

Kilauea’s eruption covered vast swathes of land with molten lava over two months, displacing more than 2,000 people and destroying some 700 homes.

Entire residential areas were wiped out and about 30 miles of roads were covered.

The lava is also estimated to have covered about 13.7 square miles of land up to “several dozens of feet deep in places” and added 875 acres of land to Hawai’i’s coastline.

Is the Hawaii volcano going to erupt?

The good news is there is no sign to suggest Mauna Loa is on the verge of an imminent eruption.

Earthquakes around active volcanoes are often seen as signs of magma rushing to the surface.

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Clustering of shallow earthquakes in this region does not mean an eruption is imminent

Hawaii Volcano Observatory, USGS

But there has been no uptick in seismic activity since Monday and there are no other indicators of worrying volcanic activity either.

According to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) branch of the USGS, there is no risk the volcano is about to blow.

The YVO said: “Clustering of shallow earthquakes in this region does not mean an eruption is imminent.

“HVO has recorded shallow earthquakes in this area for many decades across several eruptive cycles at both Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

“These earthquakes may result from changes in the magma storage system and/or may be part of normal re-adjustments of the volcano due to changing stresses within it.

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“Other monitoring data streams for Mauna Loa and Kīlauea, including ground deformation, gas, and imagery, show no significant changes in activity.”

The HVO will continue to monitor Mauna Loa for more quakes, ground deformation and gas emissions.

The latest alert level for Mauna Loa stands at ADVISORY, which was downgraded from WATCH on Tuesday.

An advisory suggests “volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background activity.”

Mauna Loa is considered to be the world’s biggest active volcano and is also one of the world’s most active ones.

The volcano’s flanks descend to the seafloor where it is believed to have come from some 700,000 years ago.

Mauna Loa’s name in Hawaiian means “Long Mountain”, which fits the bill as the volcano extends for about 74 miles from the southern tip of Hawai’i to its summit and east-northeast to the coast.

The volcano last erupted in 1984 and has reared its ugly head 33 times since records began in 1843.

The USGS said: “Mauna Loa is certain to erupt again, and with such a propensity to produce large flows, we carefully monitor the volcano for signs of unrest.”

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