Residents and scientists in Hawaii fear Kilauea, the most active volcano on the state’s main island, may be on the verge of erupting. Over the past few days, seismologists recorded over 250 earthquakes in the region, prompting local authorities to issue several warnings about a possible eruption.
In addition to the tremors, geologists discovered the crater floor near the Pu’u’O’o vent in the volcano’s East Rift Zone collapsed earlier this week. As reported by ABC News, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) believes the recent seismic activity may trigger lava to emerge from the ground.
“An eruption is possible because magma is clearly moving through the East Rift Zone and it could come to the surface,” said USGS geologist Janet Babb, as reported by ABC News. “The possibility is definitely there, I can’t give you a probability.”
Early this morning, 45 earthquakes, most measuring less than magnitude 2.0, were picked up by seismographs in Hawaii. Of the 250 quakes felt in the past week, the most powerful was a 4.0 measured on Tuesday, per a report from Hawaii News Now.
With a possible volcano eruption imminent, an emergency operations center has been opened by the Hawaii County Civil Defense Department to monitor the situation and make preparations. The agency is also warning residents to stay away from the area.
As an obvious precaution, a school in the vicinity of the volcano has been closed until further notice. All private tour companies have also been ordered to cease operations for the time being.
Babb said recent measurements indicate lava is already moving under an important island highway.
“Overnight it continued to push farther to the east, and so it’s still very much an ongoing situation. Highway 130 crosses right over the East Rift Zone, so our best estimate is that it has extended beyond the area of Highway 130.”
In the past few decades, Kilauea has erupted several times. The volcano erupted in 2008 after a series of earthquakes rocked the Big Island. The explosion was large enough to spew lava and rock over a 75-acre area around the crater.
A previous explosion of Kilauea in 1983 launched lava more than 1,500 feet into the air. Various other eruptions throughout the years, including one in 2014, have pushed lava across the land for dozens of miles, destroying homes and other property along the way.
With the recent earthquakes in Hawaii, scientists have installed additional measuring equipment around the volcano and will continue to keep a close eye on any new movements. Hopefully, the increased monitoring and measuring will help them determine a more precise forecast of when Kilauea may eventually erupt.