HONOLULU (KHON2) — Earthquake activity continues to increase at Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano. We talk to experts about what could happen next.
The latest daily report about Mauna loa reveals there were 65 earthquakes in the past 24 hours. Mauna Loa is not erupting, and experts said an eruption is not imminent. But the U.S. Geological Survey has moved to daily updates, and Mauna Loa has been at a yellow “advisory” status.
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“We do have this heightened unrest,” explains Ken Hon, with the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory, “and the volcano is more likely to accelerate into an eruptive state out of the heightened unrest.”
To follow the daily USGS volcano updates and sign up for alerts, visit this website.
Mauna Loa’s most recent big eruptions were in 1975 and 1984, but whether the latest flurry of seismicity will result in a lava event is anyone’s guess.
“Go about your daily business,” Hon advised, “but kind of keep an eye out and keep your ears open for what might be going on. And we want people to think about disaster preparation.”
In the 10 days prior to the last eruption, there were five to 10 earthquakes per hour, and we’re still nowhere near that rate.
“I kind of relate it to a roller coaster,” said Talmadge Magno, administrator of Hawaii County Civil Defense. “We could be going through these rises of activity, and kind of periods of settling in. This could happen for a while.”
If Mauna Loa does erupt, where is the lava likely to go?
“It’s most likely that there’ll be a summit eruption,” said Scott Rowland, an earth science specialist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, “which within a few hours to maybe a day migrates down one or one of those two rift zones, the Northeast rift zone, which is where erupted in 1984, or the Southwest rift zone.”
Northeast heads toward Hilo, though the 1984 flow stopped short of the town itself. A southwest flow is a scenario that has folks more worried.
“The last time an eruption occurred there was 1950,” Rowland said, “and at the time, there was very little development along that flank. Nothing like what’s there now right now. There are all kinds of subdivisions along the highway, down on the coast, mauka of the highway, etc.”
About 50% of people on the Big Island live somewhere on the slopes of Mauna Loa, and experts want people to be aware and have an emergency plan in place.
“All the people that live on its slopes, you know, some portion of that 50%, those people could be affected,” Magno said. “I live on the slopes of Mauna Loa. I have to be aware of that potential for my where I live, where I work.”
Magno further stated, “So we ask that people have their plans, know what they’re going to do if Mauna Loa erupts, if they are at home, or if they’re at work, if they’re separated from their families and so forth.”