Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are monitoring increased earthquake activity in the upper Southwest Rift Zone as the lava lake at Halemaumau dropped more than 200 feet below its rim.
The drop in the lava lake and increased seismicity, with small, shallow earthquakes recorded about every two minutes on Friday, suggest magma has moved into a shallow area beneath the southern part of the caldera and the upper Southwest Rift Zone.
Scientists say its possible the activity could lead to an eruption in the Southwest Rift Zone or in and around the southern caldera.
But it’s also possible that the magma will remain underground and not erupt on the surface.
“It is not possible predict the exact outcome of this activity,” geologists said in an update on the observatory website. “”The magma storage system within Kilauea is highly pressurized at this time, and future changes in the location of unrest — and the potential for eruption — could unfold quickly (in days to hours).”
The earthquakes Friday in the Southwest Rift Zone included a magnitude 3.2 at 8:37 a.m. and a magnitude 3.0 earthquake at 10:52 a.m.
An eruption and magma movement in the Southwest Rift Zone the caldera will likely be accompanied by stronger earthquake activity, ground cracks and large, rapid changes in the deformation of the ground, scientists said.
The increased lava activity at Kilauea does not seem to be affecting the lava flows in the East Rift Zone.
“There has been no obvious change in the eruption rate of lava from the Puu Oo vent on Kilauea’s East Rift Zone. Few earthquakes have occurred in the upper ERZ over the past few days,” scientists said.