M5.6 Earthquake off Hawaii: 5 June 2013

June 5 Hawaii Earthquake

The tremor occurred in the sea south of Kilauea. Image from NOAA

The June 5 Hawaii tremor occurred in the sea, south of Kilauea. Image from NOAA

The M5.6 of 5 June occurred in the ocean to the south-west of these volcanoes, and is most likely to be associated either with movement of the seaward slopes of Kileauea (which is currently erupting at a constant, low level) or with the eruption of a more recent volcano in the Hawaiian islands chain, which is extending as the Pacific Plate moves north-westwards.

The direction of movement can be traced by the line of former volcanoes, now beneath the sea, which runs for thousands of miles across the floor of the Pacific.

Earthquake History of Hawaii

Having established the intimate connection between volcanoes and earthquakes, it’s no surprise that the Hawaiian islands, while not experiencing the large-scale high-level seismicity which occurs in some parts of the world, are by no means immune to substantial earth tremors.


The United States Geological Survey’s list of significant earthquakes shows 11 tremors larger than M6.0 in the past two centuries.

The largest to strike was, at M7.9, significant by any standards: it struck in 1868, was sufficiently large to generate a tsunami and cost the lives of 77 people. In 1975 an earthquake of M7.2 struck, also generating a tsunami, and killing two people. Generally speaking, however, the earthquakes which strike in the islands are not destructive: but they do illustrate the continuing relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes, demonstrating that large and sometimes earthquakes can occur well away from tectonic plate boundaries.


USGS. Earthquake hazards. Accessed 5 June 2013.

USGS. Historic earthquakes. Accessed 5 June 2013.

© Copyright 2013 Jennifer Young, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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