Dozens of Earthquakes Detected Near Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the World’s Largest Active Volcano

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

With dozens of earthquakes being detected near Mauna Loa, the World’s Largest Active Volcano, Hawaii’s Big Island is now warning of a possible “lava disaster.” 

Fox News reports that the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory announced earlier his week that Mauna Loa is not erupting and there are no signs of imminent eruption at this time. However, there has been an increase in earthquake activity and inflation of the summit. “The current unrest is most likely being driven by renewed input of magma 2–5 miles (3–8 km) beneath Mauna Loa’s summit,” the update reads.

It was noted that scientists are saying that the unrest is most likely due to renew input of magma beneath the summit. They are also monitoring Mauna Loa for any changes. 

As activity continues to increase in activity around the volcano, Hawaii’s civil agency is holding meetings across the island. These meetings are to educate residents on how to prepare for an emergency. “Not to panic everybody, but they have to be aware of that if you live on the slopes of Mauna Loa, “ Talmadge Magno, the administrator for Hawaii County Civil Defense, explained. “There’s a potential for some kind of lava disaster.”

Magno also said that Mauna Loa makes up more than half of Hawaii Island’s landmass. In 1950, the volcano’s lava actually traveled 15 miles to the ocean in less than three hours. Fox News further revealed that the volcano has erupted more than 30 times since 1843. This includes the eruption in 1984. The area’s current alert level is “advisory” (code yellow). 

Increased Earthquake Rates Around Mauna Loa Started in Mid-September 

CNN reports that Mauna Loa’s heightened state of unrest, with increased earthquakes, began in mid-September 2022. 

Meanwhile, the National Park Service issued a statement earlier this month that said due to elevating seismic activity, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to close the volcano’s summit to all backcountry hikers until further notice. However, Mauna Loa Road and the Mauna Loa Lookout at 6,662 feet elevation remain open to the public.

“Mauna Loa is not erupting,” the National Park Service reassured. “The volcanic alert level remains at advisory, and the aviation color code remains at yellow. U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists will notify the park if conditions change.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) revealed in mid-October two moderate quakes occurred beneath the southern end of the island. A magnitude 4.6 earthquake was detected slightly offshore and south of Pāhala. It was then followed by a 5.0 quake 24 seconds later beneath Highway 11.

“The two earthquakes occurred within 24 seconds of each other,” the agency shared. It went on to add, “[Created] shaking of longer duration and possibly greater intensity than either of the earthquakes would have created on their own.”