Volcano-earthquake interaction at Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii

Thomas R. Walter, Falk Amelung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The activity at Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii, is characterized by eruptive fissures that propagate into the Southwest Rift Zone (SWRZ) or into the Northeast Rift Zone (NERZ) and by large earthquakes at the basal decollement fault. In this paper we examine the historic eruption and earthquake catalogues, and we test the hypothesis that the events are interconnected in time and space. Earthquakes in the Kaoiki area occur in sequence with eruptions from the NERZ, and earthquakes in the Kona and Hilea areas occur in sequence with eruptions from the SWRZ. Using three-dimensional numerical models, we demonstrate that elastic stress transfer can explain the observed volcano-earthquake interaction. We examine stress changes due to typical intrusions and earthquakes. We find that intrusions change the Coulomb failure stress along the decollement fault so that NERZ intrusions encourage Kaoiki earthquakes and SWRZ intrusions encourage Kona and Hilea earthquakes. On the other hand, earthquakes decompress the magma chamber and unclamp part of the Mauna Loa rift zone, i.e., Kaoiki earthquakes encourage NERZ intrusions, whereas Kona and Hilea earthquakes encourage SWRZ intrusions. We discuss how changes of the static stress field affect the occurrence of earthquakes as well as the occurrence, location, and volume of dikes and of associated eruptions and also the lava composition and fumarolic activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB05204
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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