(BIVN) – Mauna Loa Volcano is not erupting, but it is showing signs of unrest. At a recent After Dark in the Park talk held as a park of Volcano Awareness Month, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Tina Neal gave attendees a short update on the volcano.
“Mauna Loa is accumulating magma in its shallow reservoir system,” Neal pointed out. “You may remember we went through a period from 2014 to early 2018 where this was happening. The volcano was inflating as magma was entering the reservoir. We saw higher earthquake rates. Then, interestingly, in 2018 – right around the time Kilauea erupted – things went a little quiet, and that may not be coincidental.”
“That trend reversed itself in late 2018,” Neal said, “and now we are again seeing Mauna Loa inflate, and because of that we raised the alert level for the volcano back in July, and that trend has continued.”
The alert level for Mauna Loa is currently at Advisory.
Neal presented some slides showing measurements taken at various GPS stations on the volcano, with the upward trend of the plots reflecting the rising of the ground.
Scientists are also seeing increased earthquake activity, “just like we did between 2014 and early 2018,” Neal said. “What’s interesting about them is that they’re similar patterns that we saw prior to the 1975 eruption at Mauna Loa and 1984 eruption of Mauna Loa. So it’s following some of the same patterns. But, we cannot say that we’re a month away, a year away, or 10 years away from an eruption.”
“We would expect to see significant changes in the rates of these earthquakes prior to an eruption,” Neal added, “so we expect a fair bit of warning.”
“One of the interesting questions we’re pondering is what is the impact of the Kilauea eruption in 2018 on Mauna Loa?” Neal said. “Clearly the Kilauea volcano relaxed a lot in 2018. It collapsed. It sort of relieved some pressure on Mauna Loa. Does that mean that it’s easier for Mauna Loa to erupt now?”
“We’re not really sure what that answer is but there may be an impact,” she said.