5.3-magnitude earthquake rattles Kilauea summit, but no tsunami - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

5.3-magnitude earthquake rattles Kilauea summit, but no tsunami threat

Seismic activity and steam explosions at the summit of Kilauea have been happening on an almost regular basis, and scientists say this is no coincidence (Image: USGS) Seismic activity and steam explosions at the summit of Kilauea have been happening on an almost regular basis, and scientists say this is no coincidence (Image: USGS)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Large earthquakes and steam explosions at the summit of Kilauea have been occurring on an almost daily basis in the past few days, with one happening approximately 24 hours after the next, and scientists say the activity is in fact following a "fairly reliable pattern."

The latest large earthquake to strike the summit happened around 6:25 a.m. Sunday, measuring at a magnitude of 5.3, but it was not powerful enough to generate a tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. 

Sunday marked the sixth day in a row that there was an earthquake above a magnitude of 5.0 at the summit. None of them was strong enough to trigger a tsunami, and all of them were triggered by explosive eruption at the summit. 

Seismic activity in the region has ramped up over the past month as eruptions continue at Kilauea. And the U.S. Geological Survey said it's no coincidence that the uptick in large quakes and steam explosions are happening almost routinely. Over a 24- to 36-hour period, small earthquakes are building up until an ash explosion occurs at the summit, experts say.

"Following the explosion at the summit, the seismicity will sharply drop off, and then gradually begin to build up as we approach the next summit explosion," said Alex Demas, of the USGS.

Demas said these are not traditional earthquakes, like where rock breaks along a fault line, but it's what he calls a pressure wave from the explosion.

"So as long as the summit explosions continue, there likely will be earthquakes and ground shaking associated with the explosion," he said.

Most are centered at the summit of Kilauea volcano, and the vast majority are small (under magnitude 2.5).

But there have also been a number of bigger quakes.

But the biggest quake so far associated with ongoing eruptions of Kilauea was on May 4, when a 6.9-magnitude tremor shook the island. The temblor was felt as far away as Oahu, and caused some minor damage. 

Chip McCreery, director of PTWC, said the quake was the largest to strike the Big Island since November 1975, when a tremor centered two miles off Kalapana Beach was measured at a magnitude 7.2.

This story will be updated.

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