Scientists discover “slow earthquake” at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

August 31st, 2008 - 10:55 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, August 31 (ANI): Scientists have discovered a magmatically triggered “slow earthquake” at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. From June 17-19th 2007, Kilauea experienced a new dike intrusion, where magma rapidly moved from a storage reservoir beneath the summit into the east rift zone and extended the rift zone by as much as 1 meter. Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and the US Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory have now discovered that the 2007 dike intrusion was not the only action going on. The dike also triggered a “slow earthquake” on Kilauea’’s south flank, demonstrating how magmatism and earthquake faulting at Kilauea can be tightly connected. Slow earthquakes are a special type of earthquake where fault rupture occurs too slowly (over periods of days to months) to produce any felt shaking. Slow earthquakes of magnitude 5.5-5.7 have been previously found to periodically occur on the flanks of Kilauea, and have been identified by ground motion data on Global Positioning System (GPS) stations. This new study is the first observation of slow earthquake that was triggered by a dike intrusion. A team lead by Associate Researcher Ben Brooks of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at UHM used a combination of satellite and GPS data to demonstrate that the 2007 slow earthquake began about 15-20 hours after the start of the dike intrusion, and that the slow earthquake was accompanied by elevated rates of small magnitude microearthquakes, a pattern identical to what has been seen from past slow earthquakes. The authors also performed stress modeling to demonstrate how the processes associated with the volcanism at Kilauea contributes to the existence of the observed slow earthquakes. The results suggest that both extrinsic (intrusion-triggering on short time scales) and intrinsic (secular deformation on long time scales) processes produce slow earthquakes at Kilauea. According to Brooks, “We used state-of-the-art InSAR satellite data to constrain the dike source and that allowed us to demonstrate the existence of the slow earthquake motions recorded by the GPS stations on Kilauea’’s flank.” “These slow earthquakes are an interesting phenomenon that has only been studied within the last decade and we”re still trying to figure out how they fall into the bigger picture of earthquakes,” said Cecily Wolfe, an associate professor in the Hawaii Institute for Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP). “They”re definitely a part of the earthquakes cycle, and trying to understand how they relate to other earthquakes and how they may be generated and triggered will give us greater insights into how predicable earthquakes are,” she added. (ANI)

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