Sunday 14 April 2019

Magnitude 5.3 Earthquake beneath Big Island, Hawai'i.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 5.3 Earthquake at a depth of 13.2 km beneath the western part of Big Island, Hawaii, slightly before 5.10 pm local time on Saturday 13 April 2019 (slightly before 3.10 am on Sunday 14 April GMT) . This was a large quake for Hawaii, and was felt across the entire of Big Island, as well as on the neighbouring islands of Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lāna'i, Moloka'i, O'ahu, and Kaua'i, though there are no reports of any injuries or damage associated with this event.

 The approximate location of the 13 April 2019 Big Island Earthquake. USGS.

The islands of Hawaii have formed as a result of hotspot volcanism, with the hotspot currently located under Big Island, Hawai'i, and each of the other islands being the result of previous activity from the same hotspot, with the oldest Islands in the northwest and newest in the southeast. A volcanic hotspot is an area where magma from deep inside the Earth is welling up through the overlying plate (in this case the Pacific) to create volcanism at the surface. Volcanoes move as they erupt, swelling as magma enters their chambers from bellow, then shrinking as that magma is vented as lava. The movements of a group of volcanoes close to one another can place considerable strain on layered rocks, and the islands of Hawai'i, and in particular Big Island, are very prone to Earthquakes, though these tend to be small and frequent rather than large, rare and destructive.

The position of the Hawai'i Hotspot relative to the islands of Hawai'i. Joel Robinson/USGS/Wikimedia Commons.

Witness accounts of quakes can help geologists to understand these events and the rock structures that cause them. If you felt this quake (or if you were in the area but did not, which is also useful information) you can report it to the USGS here

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