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Could Hawaii’s undersea volcano trigger an eruption like the one in Tonga? Not likely.

Your top local headlines for Jan. 18, 2022.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 7:43 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2022 at 11:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The recent undersea volcanic eruption that hit Tonga on Friday is raising questions about Hawaii’s own underwater volcano, Loihi.

Roughly 22 miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island, Hawaii’s newest volcano rises 10,000 feet from the ocean floor with its summit about 3,000 feet under the surface.

When Loihi starts shaking, volcanologists pay attention — and in the past few years, scientists recorded several flurries of earthquakes.

“We’ve never found a substantial lava flow, but there has been material that looks like it might’ve been fresh lava associated with the big pits forming on the summit,” said Ken Hon, scientist-in-charge for the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The chance of Loihi erupting? 100%, Hon says.

However, it won’t be a sudden eruption like Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai. In fact, it will be an extremely slow process as Loihi is 3,000 feet below sea level.

“So we’re talking tens of thousands, to maybe even over 100,000 years before Loihi breaches the surface,” Hon said. “And it will undoubtedly have explosive activity, but the kind of explosive activity that sends things to 100,000 feet in the atmosphere is also driven by the magna chamber.”

Hon said Loihi and Hunga Tonga have different chemistries, describing the latter as being more silicic and gas rich, which could mean more explosive eruptions.

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