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Published: Sun, September 20, 2015
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Hawaii issues volcano advisory

Hawaii issues volcano advisory

A view of Mauna Loa's summit, looking toward the northeast.

Hawaiian authorities from the USGS (US Geological Survey) have heightened alert levels for Mauna Loa, the largest of the volcanoes that comprised Hawaii and now holds the distinction of being the largest volcano in the planet.

An ADVISORY/YELLOW status is declared when one or more volcano monitoring parameters are above the background range of activity, which is the current situation on Mauna Loa.

Seismic stations at various locations, including beneath Mauna Loa's summit, upper Southwest Rift Zone, and west flank have recorded shallow, small-magnitude earthquakes which have varied, but overall remained above the long-term average. Inflation on Mauna Loa has also been measured by the scientists; it shows a recharge of a shallow magma storage system of the volcano, as a result of which they raised the alert level to yellow, or advisory. 10 earthquakes per week is the standard for the realm, however, recently over forty earthquakes per week have been recorded by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO).

Mauna Loa earthquakes could lead to eruption
Hawaii issues volcano advisory

Scientists have put stress on the fact that progression toward an eruption is not at all certain, but the volcano is under close watch to track how the development of unrest takes place. Although similar, HVO notes that the energy of the recent earthquakes are comparatively low and the current rate and pattern of ground deformation is similar to what was measured in 2005 during Mauna Loa inflation that did not end up causing an eruption. At this early stage of unrest, it cannot be decided which of those potentialities is extra possible.

The most recent eruption of Mauna Loa began in March of 1984 - and lasted for three weeks.

HVO continues to closely monitor Mauna Loa, and will notify Hawai'i County Civil Defense, the National Park Service and other emergency managers, as well as the public, if significant changes are detected. Geologist Frank Trusdell predicts that "the seismicity to grow steadily and be more consistent and persistent and even the rates to change before we forecast an eruption".

The last time Mauna Loa erupted, was in 1984. Current monitoring data for Mauna Loa is also posted on the HVO website.

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