Explosion at Kilauea summit releases energy equal to 5.5 quake - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Explosion at Kilauea summit releases energy equal to 5.5 quake

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 explosions continue at the summit of Kilauea, with both happening on an almost daily basis. 

The latest large temblor to strike at the summit happened about 6:40 a.m. Tuesday and measured at a magnitude of 5.5, but no tsunami was generated.

Officials say that the explosive events have been enough to cause additional damage to Highway 11 between the 28 and 32 Mile Markers near Volcano.

Drivers are advised to drive with extreme caution in those areas, according to officials.

Large earthquakes — most above a magnitude of 5.0 at the summit — have continued to rattle the region in recent weeks at Kilauea's volcanic activity continues. 

All of the quakes have been caused by explosive eruptions.

Seismic activity in the region has been high since early May, 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 is 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 larger quakes.

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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