The active volcano Kilauea, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is heating up. In the days between January 27 and February 1, 2024, scientists have observed more than a thousand earthquakes and ground deformation that indicate pulses of magma are moving at shallow depth beneath the surface. The Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory (HVO) is closely monitoring this activity and notes that because the summit of Kilauea is now pressurized by magma, an eruption could occur with little warning.
Kilauea ranks as the highest risk volcano in the United States and is among the world’s most active volcanoes – possibly even the most active. I’ve written a few blog posts describing Hawaiian volcanoes and Kilauea activity, specifically (a couple of these links here: Kilauea Stirring and Hotspots and Hawaiian Islands). Kilauea appears as a bulge on the southeastern flank of the giant, active Mauna Loa volcano (the largest volcano on the planet) but the smaller volcano has a separate magma plumbing system that extends deep into the earth for at least 40 miles (60 km). The eruption history of Hawaiian volcanoes is a fascinating story.
In the most recent 2024 activity in the summit region of Kilauea, earthquakes have occurred at extremely shallow depths of 1 to 2 miles (1.5 to 3 km), with magnitudes ranging from less than 1 to 3.4 – large enough to be felt by people in the surrounding communities. The earthquakes are migrating, and lining up, possibly in the form of two parallel dikes, the sheet-like structures that encompass magma. There is an excellent description of the recent activity in a post by Héctor Sacristán, The Kilauea dike of 2024, on the Volcano Café blog – one of my favorite places to learn about volcanoes (including, the latest on activity in Iceland). Check it out! And time will tell what will happen next on the island of Hawaii.
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https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea, accessed February 1, 2024
Feature photo of Kilauea caldera on May 30, 2012 by Patricia Matin Nieto. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kilauea.jpg
Photo of stream of lava from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō flowing through the forest in the Royal Gardens subdivision, February 28, 2008. Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i. https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/stream-lava-pu-u-flowing-through-forest-roy