‘Trouble’ over Hawaii volcano, no sign of impending eruption
HONOLULU (AP) — Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, is in a “state of heightened unrest” but is not erupting and there are no signs of an imminent eruption, a said the Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory in an update Friday.
Earlier this week, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed the Mauna Loa summit backcountry until further notice, calling it a “precautionary measure” amid “high seismic activity.”
The observatory said the increased unrest began in mid-September, “as recorded by an increase in earthquakes below Mauna Loa’s summit.”
The volcano, which stands about 13,680 feet (4,170 meters) above sea level on the island of Hawaii, last erupted in 1984, the observatory said. Since 1843, it has erupted 33 times, with the time between eruptions ranging from months to decades, according to the observatory.
The park’s online portal says this is “the volcano’s longest period of calm since written records have been kept”.
“Mauna Loa will erupt again,” said Ken Hon, chief scientist at the Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory. told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “As long as there is increased unrest, it is more likely to break out. But it could take weeks or months – or it could end up dying.
The latter occurred the last time there was elevated seismic activity and summit expansion on Mauna Loa, in early 2021.
Hon said scientists don’t have much information to determine what the volcano’s normal behavior is. There have only been two eruptions since 1950.
In recent years, the observatory has urged residents living on the slopes of Mauna Loa to bring a “go bag” with essentials and important documents in case of a potential evacuation order. This is a preparation step that local emergency managers also recommend.
Last year, state lawmakers asked the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to develop an evacuation plan for Hawaii County in the event of an eruption.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said his office helped with the plan. A first draft is expected in January.
Should the need arise before then, Magno said, “We are ready to respond.”