Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano covering half of the Big Island of Hawaii, struck 34 small earthquakes on Sunday.
Although only small amounts have been recorded, scientists have warned citizens that increased seismic activity may indicate the possibility of an eruption in the near future.
There have been 155 earthquakes greater than 1.5 on the Richter scale in the past seven days, and 740 in the past month, including 4.3 on April 3.
Sunday’s biggest earthquake was a 3.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Bahala south of Mauna Loa summit at 8:08 pm local time. The earthquake also struck 3.0 in the afternoon.
In March, the US Geological Survey said that as the volcano continues to wake up from its hibernation, it will be a good time for people to reconsider their personal contingency plans in the event of an eruption.
Historical data accompanying a USGS press release shows that in previous eruptions it may have taken only hours for pyroclastic flows to reach populated areas.
“Now is the time to reconsider personal explosive plans. Similar to preparing for hurricane season, having an explosion plan in advance helps during an emergency,” the agency writes.
A “briefcase” containing essential items and important documents is recommended, if evacuations are required in the event of a volcanic eruption.
Rising to 13,681 feet above sea level (4,169 meters), Mauna Loa, or “Long Mountain” in Hawaii, also extends three miles to the ocean floor, making it taller than Mount Everest at its base.
The Big Island also contains three other active volcanoes – Mauna Kea, Kilauea and Hualalai. Kilauea has been erupting since November.
Mauna Loa volcano has erupted 33 times since official records began in 1843. The last eruption of the volcano more than 35 years ago was when the volcano released lava from March 25 to April 15, 1984.
Volcano eruptions tend to produce large, fast-moving lava flows that can affect communities on the east and west sides of the Big Island from Kona to Hilo.
Lava flow map of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii prepared by the United States Geological Survey
Hilo in eastern Hawaii has been threatened by seven lava flows since the 1850s. In 1984, the lava stopped nearly four miles outside of the city.
On the south and west sides of the island, lava flows have reached the coast eight times, including three times in 1950.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) ranking of the largest volcanic threats in the United States placed Kilauea at number one, followed by Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington state.
Mauna Loa ranks 16th on the list, which is determined by 24 factors related to the threat to nearby residents and the threat to flight.
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