Mauna Loa Volcano Showing Unrest, May Erupt After 31 Years

Posted: Sep 20 2015, 6:00am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 21 2015, 9:30pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Mauna Loa Volcano Showing Unrest, May Erupt after 31 Years
Lava flowing from Mauna Loa on March 26, 1984 WEST HAWAII TODAY

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World's largest active volcano is displaying unusual inflation on monitoring system.

The Mauna Loa volcano is showing signs of unrest for a while and this recent volcanic activity can lead to lava eruption. This is not imminent or certain, according to scientists at U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Volcano observatories use a monitoring system to describe the current status of volcanoes and the alert levels range from ‘normal’ to ‘advisory’ to ‘watch’ and ‘warning’. Currently, the system is displaying advisory status after earthquakes have been excelled from 10 to 40 earthquakes per week in the region.

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, more than 30 years ago. Before the eruption, about 100 earthquakes were recorded each day for many years. 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.”

Mauna Loa is among the five volcanoes forming Hawaii. It is also the largest active volcano in the world.

Since mid-2014, Mauna Loa is at unrest and the recharge of volcano magma is causing inflation on monitoring instruments. Predicting anything yet is difficult even for experts.

“It is possible that the increased level of activity at Mauna could continue for many months or years, without even leading to an eruption,” said Tina Neal, HVO scientist in-charge. “It is also possible that the current unrest could be a precursor to the next eruption of Mauna Loa. But at this early stage, we cannot determine precisely which possibility is more likely.”

Previous records suggest that Mauna Loa erupts once every five years and a total of 33 eruptions have been noted since 1843.

“Mauna is not a dead volcano, it is still live,” said Trusdell. “People should take the time to understand the hazards from Mauna Loa and what they present and people should know an eruption is not imminent and HVO is monitoring it and if there is any change then we will alert the emergency managers and notify the public.”

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