Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Update on Mauna Kea - Hawaii

The USGS and HVO issued a statement on the earthquake swarm at Mauna Kea that started on Oct 19th, and ended (seemingly) on the 20th. Their statement seems to indicate that these quake swarms, as far as their scientists are considered, is a result of crustal settling due to Mauna Kea's large size (one of the largest shield volcanoes in the world). They state that Mauna Kea probably will not erupt, and that this could be a purely tectonic swarm.

Mauna Kea has had no eruptions in human history, although it is not a dead volcano by any means. The "bio" for Mauna Kea on HVO states that it will erupt in the future, although nothing on the same scale of its neighbors, Mauna Loa and Kiluea.

I do not know at this time whether or not they have done any monitoring to identify any magma beneath Mauna Kea (with some censors, you can identify and plot in 3D what is referred to as a "low velocity zone", where signals travel through hardened rock faster than liquid magma) to come to the conclusion that this is crustal settling. I would suspect that given the fact that no previous eruptions are known, that this could be mere speculation on the part of the scientists, but who am I to say?

The placement, depth, and numbers of the quakes to me seem to indicate at least a 'burp' in the magma that lies below Mauna Kea. This may or may not lead to an eruption, as 18km below the mountain is still pretty far. If it gets within 5km I might start to worry, but for now it seems, Mauna Kea is back to its restive state, and people in Hawaii should probably not lose any sleep over the dormant volcano. They have plenty of others to worry about!

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