Lava is spilling toward a key Hawaiian highway.
Two volcanoes are erupting simultaneously on the Big Island of Hawaii, which hasn’t happened since 1984.
Mauna Loa and neighboring volcano Kilauea were both erupting for the third straight day. Kilauea is a continually erupting volcano, while Mauna Loa erupted for the first time in 38 years on Sunday. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world.
“This is a rare time where we have two eruptions happening simultaneously,” said Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, according to CBS News. “To the people of Hawaii, this is a very sacred event that we are watching.”
While no evacuations have been declared as of this report, the lava flows toward the main highway on the Big Island.
The world’s largest active volcano is shooting fountains of lava more than 100 feet high and sending a river of molten rock down toward the main highway of Hawaii’s Big Island.
The leading edge of the lava flow gushing out of Mauna Loa is about 3.6 miles away from Saddle Road, also known as Daniel K. Inouye Highway, as of 9 a.m. local time, according to a US Geological Survey news release.
USGS officials said Wednesday it could take at least two days for lava flows to reach the road, which connects the east and west sides of the island. The advancing flows “are approaching a relatively flat area and will begin to slow down, spread out, and inflate,” the statement says.
The eruption of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano has temporarily killed power to the world´s premier station that measures carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There are hundreds of other carbon dioxide monitoring sites across the globe. The federal government is looking for a temporary alternate site on the Hawaiian island and is contemplating flying a generator to the Mauna Loa observatory to get its power back so it can take measurements again, said officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration´s Global Monitoring Lab in Colorado that operates the station.
I will simply note that one report on a 2002 eruption of Kilauea showed a CO2 emission rate of 8500 metric tons per day. Will Hawaii have to put money in for carbon offsets because of its active volcanoes?
Meanwhile, thousands are enjoying the show.
Anne Andersen left her overnight shift as a nurse to see the spectacle on Wednesday, afraid that the road would soon be closed.
“It’s Mother Nature showing us her face,” she said, as the volcano belched gas on the horizon. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Gordon Brown, a visitor from Loomis, California, could see the bright orange lava from the bedroom of his rental house, so he headed out for a close-up view with his wife.
“We just wanted … to come see this as close as we could get. And it is so bright, it just blows my mind,” Mr Brown said.
As a geological note, Hawaiian volcanoes are examples of shield volcanoes, which are formed due to oceanic plates moving across a “hot spot” in the Earth’s crust.
The Hawaiian shield volcanoes are the largest volcanoes on earth…rising some 9 km above the ocean floor, with volumes of 42,500 and 24,800 cubic kilometers (not counting subsidence) for Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, respectively. Kilauea is a relatively small bump on the flank of Mauna Loa with a volume of 19,400 cubic kilometers. This can be contrasted to an average of ~100 cubic kilometers for strato volcanoes such as Mount Saint Helens (Wood & Keinle 1990). In the other direction, Olympus Mons on Mars rises 24 km above its base and has a volume of almost 4,000,000 cubic kilometers.
Hawaiian volcanoes reach these huge volumes in relatively short periods of time. Mauna Loa is thought to have begun forming on the sea floor some 500,000 years ago, although this is poorly constrained. For Mauna Loa, these numbers yield an average eruption rate of 0.085 cubic kilometers/year or 2.7 cubic meters/second. Interestingly, this is almost exactly the same eruption rate that is seen during low effusion-rate eruptions, and from observation of such eruptions this has been proposed to be the supply rate from the mantle.
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