Earthquake swarm just part of new Kilauea activity - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Earthquake swarm just part of new Kilauea activity

Jim Kauahikaua Jim Kauahikaua

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii are looking at a swarm of small earthquakes that shook Kilauea Volcano last week.

There were at least 42 earthquakes in the area within a 24 hour period that started Thursday. Geophysicists said while the temblors have diminished, they are another clue in what may come next at the world's most active volcano.

"Kilauea's summit has been extending, meaning that more magma is coming up to the summit than is going out to the east rift zone," said Jim Kauahikaua, the observatory's scientist in charge. That means there's move lava underground that's headed toward the actual Kilauea caldera, rather than the zone where most of the activity has been in the volcano's 28 year long eruption.

According to Kauahikaua, the extension of the crater has been going on for a few months.

"This extension of the summit is also reflected in the rise in lava in the Halemaumau vent," he said.

"All of them are indications that pressure is increasing in the magma chamber below the summit."

Besides spewing smoke and giving visitors a good show, the Halemaumau vent has served as a window to what's going on beneath the summit since it opened up about three years ago. Lava has been rising in the vent, and is now just 260 feet below the crater's surface.

While that's been going on, the east rift has remained active.

"There's also been increased activity within the Pu'u 'O'o crater," said Kauahikaua. "There are three different holes that emit lava at different times."

And that lava has been continuing through tubes toward Kalapana and the Kalapana Gardens Subdivision, slowly devouring homes there in the pats few months as the lava continues its slow crawl to the sea.

The eruption itself is showing no signs of stopping.

But the big question remains: Will there be even more lava at the summit vent?

"We're all wondering what it's going to do," Kauahikaua said. "It could rise high enough to the floor of Halemaumau and be visible to more people. It could drop out and all go to the east rift zone.

"We're all waiting to see what happens."

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