Kilauea alert level raised after series of earthquakes

  • Halema‘uma‘u Crater is seen at Kilauea Volcano's summit. (HVO Webcam/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory raised its alert level for Kilauea from “advisory” to “watch” Tuesday morning after an ongoing series of small earthquakes was detected beneath Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

According to HVO, the swarm of earthquakes began Monday evening beneath the south part of the Kilauea caldera. It continued into Tuesday morning, and a particularly strong sequence of about 10 earthquakes — averaging around a magnitude-2.2, with one reaching magnitude-3.4 — began around 1:30 a.m.

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HVO said the earthquake swarm coincided with a change in ground deformation recorded by tiltmeters at the Kilauea summit, which could indicate the shallow movement of magma beneath the caldera.

Currently, all seismic activity is confined within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HVO reported. Small earthquakes are continuing at a rate of at least 10 per hour.

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Although HVO reported that Kilauea is not currently erupting, with no evidence of surface lava, it raised both the volcano alert level — from “advisory” to “watch” — and the aviation color code — from “yellow” to “orange” — in response.

A “watch” alert level indicates that the volcano is exhibiting “heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption” under an uncertain timeframe. An “orange” aviation color code indicates the same.

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