Sudden aseismic fault slip on the south flank of Kilauea volcano

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 04 July 2002


One of the greatest hazards associated with oceanic volcanoes is not volcanic in nature, but lies with the potential for catastrophic flank failure1,2. Such flank failure can result in devastating tsunamis and threaten not only the immediate vicinity, but coastal cities along the entire rim of an ocean basin3. Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii, USA, is a potential source of such flank failures3,4 and has therefore been monitored by a network of continuously recording geodetic instruments, including global positioning system (GPS) receivers, tilt meters and strain meters. Here we report that, in early November 2000, this network recorded transient southeastward displacements, which we interpret as an episode of aseismic fault slip. The duration of the event was about 36 hours, it had an equivalent moment magnitude of 5.7 and a maximum slip velocity of about 6 cm per day. Inversion of the GPS data reveals a shallow-dipping thrust fault at a depth of 4.5 km that we interpret as the down-dip extension of the Hilina Pali–Holei Pali normal fault system. This demonstrates that continuously recording geodetic networks can detect accelerating slip, potentially leading to warnings of volcanic flank collapse.

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Figure 1: Observed (black) and predicted (orange) displacements from the November 2000 deformation event on Kilauea volcano.
Figure 2: Horizontal displacement time series of six continuous GPS stations for 2000.
Figure 3: A cross-section of Kilauea's south flank along the grey line in Fig. 1.
Figure 4: The source time function for November 2000 deformation event.


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We thank M. Bevis for access to the GPS data for the University of Hawaii network, P. Okubo for providing hypocentres, G. Blewitt, R. Bürgmann, J. Davis, R. Iverson, M. Johnston, J. McGuire, J. Murray, D. Swanson and W. Thatcher for comments and discussion, and D. Okita for getting us to and from Kilauea GPS stations safely and efficiently. The National Science Foundation and the US Geological Survey provided funding for this research.

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Correspondence to Peter Cervelli.

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Cervelli, P., Segall, P., Johnson, K. et al. Sudden aseismic fault slip on the south flank of Kilauea volcano. Nature 415, 1014–1018 (2002).

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