USGS HVO Press Release — Hawaii's history of destructive earthquakes the focus of two talks

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Hawai‘i ISLAND, Hawaii — Hawaii's long history of destructive earthquakes will be the focus of two upcoming presentations by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. 

HVO seismologist Paul Okubo will present "Damaging earthquakes in Hawaii: When, where, and why" on Wednesday, November 20, in the Sciences and Technology Building, Room 108 (lecture hall), located near the intersection of Nowelo and West Lanikaula Streets, on the UH–Hilo main campus in Hilo. A map of the campus is online: This free presentation begins at 7:00 p.m.

Wes Thelen, HVO's seismic network manager, will speak about "Large earthquakes in the Hawaiian Islands: What you need to know" in the Kīlauea Visitor Center auditorium on Crater Rim Drive, in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26. This "After Dark in the Park" presentation is free, but Park entrance fees apply.

Large earthquakes pose an ever-present danger to Hawaii. Since 1868, more than 30 magnitude-6.0 or greater earthquakes have impacted residents throughout the State. The probability that another destructive—magnitude-6.5 or higher—earthquake will strike the Hawaiian Islands in the next 10 years is 50 percent; in the next 20 years, the probability increases to 75 percent.

According to Okubo, while the Island of Hawai‘i experiences more seismicity than other Hawaiian islands, the exposure to earthquake risk spans the entire State of Hawaii. As a recent example, he notes that the October 2006 magnitude-6.7 and 6.0 earthquakes, located in West Hawai‘i, caused $200 million in damages on the Islands of Hawai‘i and Maui, as well as an extended power outage on O‘ahu.

Thelen notes that two of HWAII Island's most devastating earthquakes occurred in November—a magnitude-7.7 quake near Kalapana in 1975 and a magnitude-6.6 quake near Volcano in 1983—making this month a particularly appropriate time to remind residents of the earthquake hazards that exist on our island home.

Both Okubo and Thelen will present an overview of earthquakes in Hawaii, including current theories on why they occur. They will also talk about "The Great Hawaii ShakeOut" (, an earthquake awareness and preparedness event that took place last month, and what people can do to protect themselves during Hawaii's next large earthquake.

For more information about these two presentations, visit the HVO website at or call (808) 967-8844.


Daily updates about ongoing eruptions, recent images and videos of summit and East Rift Zone volcanic activity, maps, and data about recent earthquakes in Hawaii are posted on the HVO website at

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