We investigated the microseismicity recorded in an active volcano to infer information concerning the volcano structure and long-term dynamics, by using relative relocations and focal mechanisms of microearthquakes. There were 32,000 earthquakes of the Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes recorded by more than eight stations of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory seismic network between 1988 and 1999. We studied 17,000 of these events and relocated more than 70%, with an accuracy ranging from 10 to 500 m. About 75% of these relocated events are located in the vicinity of subhorizontal decollement planes, at a depth of 8-11 km. However, the striking features revealed by these relocation results are steep southeast dipping fault planes working as reverse faults, clearly located below the decollement plane and which intersect it. If this decollement plane coincides with the pre-Mauna Loa seafloor, as hypothesized by numerous authors, such reverse faults rupture the pre-Mauna Loa oceanic crust. The weight of the volcano and pressure in the magma storage system are possible causes of these ruptures, fully compatible with the local stress tensor computed by Gillard et al. . Reverse faults are suspected of producing scarps revealed by kilometer-long horizontal slip-perpendicular lineations along the decollement surface and therefore large-scale roughness, asperities, and normal stress variations. These are capable of generating stick-slip, large-magnitude earthquakes, the spatial microseismic pattern observed in the south flank of Kilauea volcano, and Hilina-type instabilities. Rupture intersecting the decollement surface, causing its large-scale roughness, may be an important parameter controlling the growth of Hawaiian volcanoes.
Additional publication details
New insights into Kilauea's volcano dynamics brought by large-scale relative relocation of microearthquakes