Mauna Loa, the biggest active volcano in the world, is in a “state of heightened unrest” as a series of earthquakes continue to rumble beneath it.
The biggest ripple to blast through the core of the formation, located in the heart of the state’s major island of Hawaii, had a magnitude of 5.0.
The Big Island of Hawaii, which is the southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago, is made up of five volcanoes, including Mauna Loa. Although Mauna Kea has the record for being the tallest, it is the largest and accounts for nearly half of the island’s land area.
The Kilauea volcano, which is currently erupting from its summit crater, is located directly to its immediate north. The 2018 eruption of Kilauea is well-known for destroying 700 homes and sending rivers of lava across farmland and into the ocean.
Last eruption in Mauna Loa
The last eruption of Mauna Loa occurred in March 1984. 16 km of lava were covered in four days. According to the National Park Service, the lava stopped flowing roughly 4 miles outside of the significant town of Hilo.
Since the volcano’s initial eruption in 1843, the 38-year span since the 1984 eruption has been the longest. According to the United States Geological Survey, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, with eruptions occurring on average every five years. The volcano has only erupted twice since 1950 as activity has decreased recently.
The recent activity in Mauna Loa
Geologists started to record an increase in the number of earthquakes shaking the earth’s surface around the middle of September, which is when warnings first started to be issued. Mid-September saw an average of 20 earthquakes each day at the location, but by the start of October, that number had increased to 40.
The US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory changed its advisory level from green to yellow in reaction to this change in seismic activity as a precaution for the volcano’s “heightened unrest.”
Green represents the lowest level of activity and is equivalent to “normal activity,” while yellow denotes “elevated unrest above known background activity,” orange denotes “on watch” and denotes “escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption,” and red denotes an eruption that is “imminent, underway, or suspected.”
Due to the increased activity, the top of Mauna Loa was “precautionarily closed” to tourists in October.
Is it going to erupt any sooner?
Mauna Loa is not currently erupting, according to scientists and geologists who are regularly watching its activity, and there are currently no indications that it will soon erupt.
The rate of earthquakes at Mauna Loa, according to scientists, is not high enough to warrant sounding the alarms more frequently than at the present yellow level of volcanic alert.
Cause of activity
The reason for the heightened activity, according to geologists from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, was due to “renewed input of magma” into the volcano’s reservoir system, which the USGS defines as the area under the vent of a volcano where molten rock (magma) is stored before eruption. A magma storage zone or magma reservoir is another name for it.
According to the agency’s Sunday bulletin, “as the reservoir expands, it is causing mild tremors just beneath Mokuaweoweo crater and in an area slightly to the northwest of the caldera.”
Actions taken for the residents
Despite the fact that the volcano hasn’t erupted since 1984, recent increases in underground quakes have raised local concerns that it could be time for a spillover. As a result, the National Park Service decided to restrict access to the summit for climbers and tourists as “a precautionary measure.”
The monthly Notice of Flight Operations for November 2022 was just released by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
According to the National Park Service, managing the park necessitates the use of aircraft for search-and-rescue missions, law enforcement activities, supporting the management of natural and cultural resources, and maintaining backcountry amenities.
Additionally, flights will be conducted for Hawaiian petrel (‘ua’u) monitoring on Mauna Loa between the 4,000- and 9,000-ft elevations between 6:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on November 3 and again from November 15 to 16.
On November 15 between the hours of 8 and 10 a.m. between the elevations of 3,500 and 7,500 ft, flights will also assist in the recovery of endangered plants.
The National Park Service states that the park regrets any noise-related impacts on locals and park visitors. Dates and timings are subject to vary depending on weather and aircraft availability.
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