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Report on Loihi (United States) — January 1989

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 1 (January 1989)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Loihi (United States) Earthquake swarm may document magma intrusion

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1989. Report on Loihi (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 14:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198901-332000.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


United States

18.92°N, 155.27°W; summit elev. -975 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

An earthquake swarm, detected 24 January 1989 from 0736 to 1009, included 12 relatively large events (M 2.5-3.6) and 15 smaller events (M 1.3-2.5) superimposed on continuous background tremor (figure 3). Ten events (M 1.5-2.3) of relatively high frequencies followed during the remainder of the day, then declined. After four events [of M 1.3-2.5] on the 25th, only sporadic seismicity [consisting of four more events during 26-31 January of M 1.2-2.9] was recorded. Frequencies were characteristic of tectonic-type events, suggesting to USGS geophysicists that they may have marked an intrusive episode, but probably not an eruption. Depth control was limited, since the nearest seismic station is on the S coast of Hawaii, >30 km away.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Preliminary locations of January 1989 earthquakes (M > 2.0) at Loihi and on the island of Hawaii. Courtesy of Robert Koyanagi, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Geologic Background. Loihi seamount, the youngest volcano of the Hawaiian chain, lies about 35 km off the SE coast of the island of Hawaii. Loihi (which is the Hawaiian word for "long") has an elongated morphology dominated by two curving rift zones extending north and south of the summit. The summit region contains a caldera about 3 x 4 km wide and is dotted with numerous lava cones, the highest of which is about 975 m below the sea surface. The summit platform includes two well-defined pit craters, sediment-free glassy lava, and low-temperature hydrothermal venting. An arcuate chain of small cones on the western edge of the summit extends north and south of the pit craters and merges into the crests prominent rift zones. Deep and shallow seismicity indicate a magmatic plumbing system distinct from that of Kilauea. During 1996 a new pit crater was formed at the summit, and lava flows were erupted. Continued volcanism is expected to eventually build a new island; time estimates for the summit to reach the sea surface range from roughly 10,000 to 100,000 years.

Information Contacts: R. Koyanagi, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.