Over 50 Earthquakes Have Rattled Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Over the Last 24 Hours

by Taylor Cunningham
Credit: Steve Prorak / EyeEm

Areas around Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island in Hawaii are in a state of “heightened unrest” after more than 50 earthquakes have rattled in the last 24 hours.

The U.S. Geological Survey recently released an update following weeks of activity. As it stands, Mauna Loa is currently on an “Advisory” alert level, but officials see “no signs of an imminent eruption.”

The quakes are likely due to new magma flowing two and five miles below the volcano’s summit. And most of the activity has been detected two to three miles under Mokuʻāweoweo caldera and 4 to 5 miles “beneath the upper-elevation northwest flank of Mauna Loa.”

The survey says that it’s typical for those regions to become “seismically active during periods of unrest on Mauna Loa.”

The volcano is one of five that make up the Big Island, and until mid-September, it had been inactive. Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843 and the last time was in 1983.

Frank Trusdell, a research geologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, which is part of the U.S. Geological Survey, said that Mauna Loa appears to have a much larger magma reservoir than the neighboring, more active Kilauea. He believes it can rest for longer periods of time between eruptions because it may be able to hold more lava.

Scientists Can’t Say When Mauna Loa Will Erupt

Scientists know the volcano will erupt. But unfortunately, they will not know it’s happening until it begins. The volcano can erupt from several different locations. If the lava comes from vents along the southwest rift zone, it could hit coffee farms, coastal villages, and other residential communities on the west side of the island within hours or days.

If the eruption happens from the northeast rift zone, towns in East Hawaii would be affected. However, it could take weeks or even months for the lava to reach communities.

Geologist Scott Rowland with the University of Hawaii at Manoa told Fox News 10 that there’s no historical pattern when it comes to where an eruption will originate.

“Just because the last one was on the northeast rift zone does not mean the next one will be down the southwest rift zone,” he shared.

Because of the heightened seismic activity, the US National Park Service has shut down parts of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park until further notice. The main part of the park remains open.

“As a precautionary measure, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is closing the Mauna Loa summit backcountry until further notice,” NPS wrote on Oct. 5. “Mauna Loa Road and the Mauna Loa Lookout at 6,662 feet elevation remain open to the public.”