For those who had a chance to see the eruption at Mauna Loa volcano, you’ve reported it was spectacular. Your editors were nearby on the Big Island just days before the eruption but, unfortunately, weren’t able to return again in time to view it.
Late Saturday, USGS reported that:
- Lava eruption from fissure 3 on the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa continues but with greatly reduced lava output and volcanic gas emissions.
- Most lava is confined to the vent in a small pond. The short lava flows active about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the vent yesterday have stalled.
- The flow front in the Humu’ula Saddle region has stagnated 1.9 miles (3 km) from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road) and is no longer a threat.
USGS said further that the eruption is largely over.
“High eruption rates will not resume based on past eruptive behavior, and current behavior suggests that the eruption may end soon. However, an inflationary trend of Mauna Loa’s summit is accompanying the decreased activity, and there is a small possibility that the eruption could continue at very low eruptive rates.”
USGS has reduced the volcano alert level to a watch from a warning, reflecting a reduction in possible hazards. Aviation remains at Orange, which USGS says is “reflecting the uncertainty of continuing eruptive activity and the possibility of volcanic ash emissions.”
The end of a volcanic eruption can occur in a number of different ways.
In this case, the eruption seems to be simply stopping on its own, with the lava flow and other volcanic activity gradually dwindling until it ceases entirely. In other cases, the eruption can be brought to an end through the use of various mitigation measures, such as the construction of barriers or the redirecting of lava flows, such as in cases where it cuts off highways. Ultimately, the length and intensity of a volcanic eruption can vary greatly, and it is difficult to predict exactly when an eruption will come to an end. In this case, USGS says that Mauna Loa appears to be stopping soon.
Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that make up the Big Island and is the largest volcano on Earth in relation to its volume and area covered. Mauna Loa will remain an active volcano, with its history of frequent eruptions. The most recent eruption of Mauna Loa prior to this occurred in 1984. Mauna Loa is renowned for its very fluid lava, which is capable of flowing long distances from the vent, leading to the destruction of things in its path. Mauna Loa is an important cultural and scientific site and is considered a sacred place by Native Hawaiians.