Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano is beginning to stir, new data reveal

15.10.2002


Mauna Loa - Hawaii’s biggest and potentially most destructive volcano - is showing signs of life again nearly two decades after its last eruption.



Recent geophysical data collected on the surface of the 13,500-foot volcano revealed that Mauna Loa’s summit caldera has begun to swell and stretch at a rate of 2 to 2.5 inches a year, according to scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Stanford University. Surface inflation can be a precursor of a volcanic eruption, the scientists warn.

"Inflation means that magma is accumulating below the surface, but at this point we don’t have the kinds of sophisticated models that would be required to tell us if or when an eruption will occur," said Paul Segall, a professor of geophysics at Stanford who has collaborated with USGS volcanologists in Hawaii since 1990.


Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa - or "Long Mountain" in Hawaiian - is the largest volcano in the world. Its last eruption occurred in spring 1984 - a violent three-week event that produced fast-moving lava flows that came within 4 miles of the city of Hilo. The volcano has remained silent for the past 18 years - in sharp contrast to its neighbor, Kilauea, which has been erupting continuously since January 1983.

"After the 1984 eruption, Mauna Loa went through nearly a decade of inflation, followed by almost 10 years of deflation," said Peter Cervelli, a geophysicist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO).

The deflationary period abruptly ended around Mother’s Day, May 12, when HVO’s global positioning system (GPS) network revealed that the summit had begun to rise and swell. May 12 was the same day that Kilauea’s most recent active lava flow began - a discovery that scientists say is far from coincidental.

"This clearly indicates that there is a connection between the two magma systems," Segall noted. "That’s the great thing about Hawaii: It’s so incredibly active that just about every year we learn something new."

GPS stations

HVO maintains several GPS stations on Mauna Loa that continuously record their positions using information transmitted from orbiting satellites. The around-the-clock satellite data allow scientists to measure how far the GPS stations have moved - and thus determine if the volcano is expanding or contracting. Cervelli, who earned his doctorate at Stanford last year, said the university has loaned HVO eight additional GPS stations to monitor the volcano. Because of the remote mountaintop location, each instrument can cost up to $20,000 to install. Segall’s research on the Big Island is funded through a National Science Foundation grant.

"Until recently, Stanford’s research in Hawaii has been primarily on Kilauea, but when Mauna Loa started to show renewed activity in late spring, Paul [Segall] agreed to lend us four of his continuous GPS receivers," Cervelli explained. "We are holding four more Stanford instruments in reserve to be deployed as conditions warrant."

Cervelli and his USGS colleagues will work with Segall to interpret the new GPS data as they become available.

"We see this as an opportunity to watch the volcano evolve through an entire eruptive period - from early awakening to actual eruption," Cervelli said. "If the recent activity does culminate in an eruption, this will be the first time that a Mauna Loa eruption is imaged with precise clarity. Without Stanford’s help, this would not be possible."

History of destruction

Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, spewing out enough lava to cover 40 percent of the Big Island. The most destructive eruption in recorded history occurred in 1950, when lava raced to the sea at speeds up to 5 miles an hour - destroying homes, businesses, roads and ranches along the way.

Despite the volcano’s destructive potential, the USGS estimates that more than $2.3 billion has been invested in new construction along Mauna Loa’s slopes since the 1984 eruption.

"Mauna Loa is capable of erupting huge volumes of lava in a relatively short period of time, and the flows can reach great distances," Segall observed. "It presents a more significant safety hazard than Kilauea."

Cervelli echoed that concern: "There has been a substantial amount of development on what has historically been the most hazardous part of Mauna Loa - its southwest rift zone above South Point. Though lava flows can reach Hilo on the eastern side of the island and the Gold Coast resorts of Kona in the west, flows are much more likely to inundate the subdivisions in the southwest rift zone - and possibly without much warning."

Increased earthquake activity is another indication that magma is rising to the surface. "Seismicity does seem to be picking up," Cervelli noted, "but at this point we are not issuing a public warning. Instead, we are asking that the people of Hawaii remind themselves that they live among the world’s most active volcanoes."


COMMENT:Paul Segall, Geophysics: (650) 725-7241, segall@stanford.edu
Peter Cervelli, Hawaii Volcano Observatory: (808) 967-8814, pcervelli@usgs.gov

Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov
http://kilauea.stanford.edu
http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/hazards/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West
23.10.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>