Abstract

An M = 7.2 earthquake on 29 November 1975 caused the south flank of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, to move seaward several meters: a catastrophic release of compression of the south flank caused by earlier injections of magma into the adjacent segment of a rift zone. The focal mechanisms of the mainshock, the largest foreshock, and the largest aftershock suggest seaward movement of the upper block. The rate of aftershocks decreased in a familiar hyperbolic decay, reaching the pre-1975 rate of seismicity by the mid-1980s. Repeated rift-zone intrusions and eruptions after 1975, which occurred within 25 km of the summit area, compressed the adjacent portion of the south flank, apparently masking continued seaward displacement of the south flank. This is evident along a trilateration line that continued to extend, suggesting seaward displacement, immediately after the M = 7.2 earthquake, but then was compressed during a series of intrusions and eruptions that began in September 1977. Farther to the east, trilateration measurements show that the portion of the south flank above the aftershock zone, but beyond the area of compression caused by the rift-zone intrusions and eruptions, continued to move seaward at a decreasing rate until the mid-1980s, mimicking the decay in aftershock rate. Along the same portion of the south flank, the pattern of vertical surface displacements can be explained by continued seaward movement of the south flank and development of two eruptive fissures along the east rift zone, each of which extended from a depth of ∼3 km to the surface. The aftershock rate and continued seaward movement of the south flank are reminiscent of crustal response to other large earthquakes, such as the 1966 M = 6 Parkfield earthquake and the 1983 M = 6.5 Coalinga earthquake.

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