Earthquakes Swarm Big Island

Cindy Orlando
Cindy Orlando
Jim Kauahikaua
Jim Kauahikaua
Melissa Eitzel
Melissa Eitzel

KILAUEA (KHNL) - A swarm of minor earthquakes not only shook the National Park, but nearby residents also felt the tremors.  Now many wonder: what's next?

Around 2:15 Sunday morning, about 70 shallow earthquakes happened in just two hours.

The quakes were located beneath the East Rift Zone of Kilauea between 1 and 2 miles deep.

At least 10 of those quakes were a magnitude of 3 or greater.

But this swarm of earthquakes could mean magma is moving around under the surface of Kilauea, which has been erupting continuously since 1983.

That has some speculating on what Sunday's activity means.

The lead scientist monitoring Kilauea tells us he does not think the volcano is going to erupt.

He's not saying it won't happen, but says Sunday's activity suggests lava is simply flowing into cracks, filling in around the edges.

Still, lots of precautionary measures are in effect right now.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says none of the earthquakes so far are large enough to trigger an alert.

If a magnitude 4 or larger hits, the center will issue an informational bulletin; 6.9 or larger, a tsunami warning will go out within five minutes of the quake.

So far, coastline residents are clear of danger, but the tsunami center will still stay on guard.

"The eruption site is very close to shore -- within 5 to 10 miles to coast -- so we're keeping our eyes open," says Barry Hirshorn. "With an eruption, what we would worry about is that it can feed lava flows that could cut off trails and ignite wildfires. Also emit sulfurous gases that would make it difficult to breathe, so visitor safety, employee safety are our chief concerns."

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is temporarily closed.

Normally, visitors can go 40 miles deep into the park, but on Sunday they can only go three miles in.

Here's what's closed:

  • Chain of Craters Road.
  • And all but three miles of Crater Rim Drive.

Outer parts of the park are still open, including the Kilauea Visitor Center, Jaggar Museum, and the Volcano House Hotel.

Geophysicists say dense swarms of earthquakes have happened in years past.

Sometimes they lead up to something, sometimes they don't.

The U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center will continue monitoring Kilauea.

Click here for a live picture of the Pu'u 'O'o Vent on the Kilauea Volcano.