More than 130 earthquakes hit beneath the northwest flank of Mauna Loa, Hawaii – Is the largest volcano on Earth heating up?

A swarm of earthquakes, that began on March 29, 2021, at 2:30 a.m. HST is occurring beneath the northwest flank of Mauna Loa.

Mauna Loa earthquake swarm, Mauna Loa earthquake swarm in March 2021, Mauna Loa earthquake swarm in March 2021 map
Mauna Loa earthquake swarm in March 2021. Picture via HVO

Beginning at 2:30 a.m. HST on March 29, 2021, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has recorded over 130 earthquakes beneath the northwest side of Mauna Loa’s summit, about 42 km (26 miles) WNW of Volcano.

Most of these earthquakes are occurring in a cluster about 2 km (1 mile) wide and 6–8 km (3.5–5 miles) below the surface.

The largest event in the sequence, so far, was a magnitude-2.7 earthquake, with the bulk of the events being less than magnitude-2.

Only one event was reported felt by a resident and was described as weak shaking with a maximum Intensity of II on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale.

Mauna Loa earthquake swarm, Mauna Loa earthquake swarm in March 2021, Mauna Loa earthquake swarm in March 2021 map
Only one of the over 100 earthquakes near Mauna Loa was felt. Map via USGS

Clustering of shallow earthquakes in this region does not mean an eruption is imminent. HVO has recorded shallow earthquakes in this area for many decades across several eruptive cycles at both Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

These earthquakes may result from changes in the magma storage system and/or may be part of normal re-adjustments of the volcano due to changing stresses within it.

Other monitoring data streams for Mauna Loa and Kīlauea, including ground deformation, gas, and imagery, show no significant changes in activity.

Do you think a Mauna Loa volcanic eruption is going to happen soon? [HVO]

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