USGS Scientists Monitoring Volcano for Signs of Eruption

USGS scientists continue to monitor the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii for any signs of eruption. While the volcano isn’t erupting at the moment, that could change soon; the summit region of the volcano continues to exhibit signs of heightened unrest with elevated summit seismicity.

“Inflationary tilt and elevated seismicity continue at Kīlauea’s summit,” wrote USGS scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO.)  “Daily rates have been variable, but over the past several months, both deformation and seismicity have been elevated beyond observations preceding the January 5, 2023 summit eruption.  Earthquake rates remain elevated beneath Kīlauea summit and Nāmakanipaio. Over the past 24 hours, 93 earthquakes were located beneath Kīlauea summit, with an increase in number overnight. Most of the earthquakes have been smaller than magnitude-2 and not reported felt. The most recent sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate of approximately 120 tonnes per day was measured on May 26, 2023. ”

While the Summit area shows continued signs of unrest, HVO adds there has been no unusual activity observed along the East Rift Zone or the Southwest Rift Zone; steady rates of ground deformation and seismicity continue along both. Just five years ago, Kilauea erupted in the populated East Rift Zone, destroying homes and entire communities along the northeast coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

While there is no eruption yet, there are numerous hazards in the area. HVO warns, “Significant hazards around Kīlauea caldera include Halemaʻumaʻu crater wall instability, ground cracking, and rockfalls that can be enhanced by earthquakes within the area closed to the public. This underscores the extremely hazardous nature of the rim surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu crater, an area that has been closed to the public since early 2008. ”

The summit of Kilauea is contained entirely within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. While Mauna Loa Trail, the summit cabin and wilderness area above Red Hill Cabin remain closed due to hazards from the November/December eruption of the Mauna Loa eruption, all park roads and front country trails are open. Park staff do warn visitors though, “It is critical to stay on trails and in designated overlooks. Concealed sinkholes, unstable cliff edges and earth cracks, volcanic gasses present hazards.”

**By Weatherboy