HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials on Hawaii Island are asking residents to be aware that Mauna Loa is stirring.
Mauna Loa is not currently erupting and the alert level has not been raised, but a recent uptick in seismic activity led authorities to close part of the mountain.
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The United States Geological Survey said the largest active volcano in the world has not erupted since 1984, but the number of earthquakes around Mauna Loa has more than doubled since July and August.
“And they’ve gone up from, you know, 10 or 15 a day up to like 40 to 50 a day at this point,” said Ken Hon, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist in charge.
We’ve seen an indication that magma may be moving up slightly shallower, but we’re still talking several kilometers, well over a mile beneath the summit. Nothing is close to the surface under the summit at this point.”Ken Hon, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist in charge
Hon said there were only 4 hours of lead time ahead of the 1984 eruption. In about 60 minutes, earthquakes had shot up from two every hour to two every minute.
“Right now, we’re, you know, 50 earthquakes a day is about two earthquakes an hour,” Hon said, “so when we start seeing earthquakes per minute, then that will be worrisome.”
The alert level remains at advisory and the aviation color code is still yellow.
“But this uptick in activity is significant,” Hon said. “So, we want to make sure people are alerted to the fact that it’s up in this higher level and the probability of an eruption has become a little bit higher because of that.”
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is switching from weekly to daily updates to show a heightened interest and the National Park Service closed the summit backcountry area to hikers on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
Officials said the closure is not unordinary.
“Most recently it closed due to a wildfire that was actually the whole road leading up onto Mauna Loa from the park side, and every year it closes due to snowstorms,” said Jody Anastasio, National Park Service education specialist.
Their message is not to panic, but to stay aware and be prepared.
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“It is not unusual and this could just quiet down or it could potentially lead to an eruption. We really can’t tell at this point,” Hon said.