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Moderate Earthquake Rattles Hawaii
Released: 8/27/2003

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Butch Kinerney 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4732 | FAX: 703-648-4466

A moderate earthquake rattled the Big Island of Hawai?i late Tuesday. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that the earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.0, was centered about 30 miles south-southwest of Hilo, Hawai?i, in the Hawai?i Volcanoes National Park, near the base of Kilauea. It struck about 8:24 p.m. local time. Several small aftershocks have been reported.

No damage has been reported, but the earthquake was felt throughout the island. Don Swanson, USGS scientist-in-charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) at the park, said the earthquake was likely not related to volcanic activity because of its size and depth — about 6 miles below the surface of the earth. Volcano-related earthquakes usually occur at much shallower depths. Although further aftershocks are possible, said Swanson, they should be smaller than the main shock.

To see where the earthquake took place, or to report feeling the earthquake, visit the USGS HVO website at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/. To see where the earthquake was felt, visit the USGS Did You Feel It map at: http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/shake/hi/STORE/X5309745/ciim_display.html. .

Seismologists at HVO study the regional seismicity of the Hawaiian Islands, in particular the tectonic and volcanic earthquakes to study major fault zones as well as to predict volcanic eruptions.

Some Hawaiian earthquakes, called tectonic earthquakes, occur deep within or below the islands. Others, called volcanic earthquakes, are usually shallower and can be precursors to volcanic eruptions and intrusions of magma. Tuesday?s earthquake was most likely tectonic and related to shifting of the island.

Seismic monitoring of the active Hawaiian volcanoes began in 1912 and since then the monitoring network has expanded to more than 60 stations on the Big Island. Data from remote stations are continuously sent via radio in real-time to HVO.

The network consists principally of instruments that are most sensitive to local earthquakes. USGS is working continuously to upgrade the network to include seismometers that are capable of recording a much wider range of seismic signals.

The goal of USGS earthquake monitoring is to mitigate risk - using better instruments to understand the damage caused by shaking and to help engineers create stronger and sounder structures that ensure vital infrastructures, utility, water, and communication networks can keep operating safely and efficiently.

State-of-the-art "strong motion" instruments, being implemented through the USGS Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) are critical in giving emergency response personnel real-time maps of severe ground shaking and providing engineers with information about building and site response.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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