STATES CHRONICLE – The biggest in the world, Mauna Loa volcano changes alert level from NORMAL/GREEN due to increased seismic activity that might be building up to a full eruption, though yet not definitive. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has requested inhabitants of the Big Island not to panic, but to be cautious about the most recent rise in earthquakes.
According to the official authorities, Mauna Loa had showed “signs of unrest”, starting on September 17th, that has prompted them to raise the level to ADVISORY/YELLOW for the Hawaiian population. Increased seismic activity is not the definite sign than an eruption is coming, but it’s certainly one step closer and a possible foretelling hint.
Since the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) began their close observation upon the volcano in 1843, three radial eruptions have been recorded at Mauna Loa, one 1852 that propagated lava toward Pohakuloa, the second in 1859 when an eruption at 11,000 foot elevation sent it to Kiholo Bay, and another submarine eruption in 1877 in Kealakekua Bay.
The last eruption was recorded in 1984, after 3 years of increased seismic activity, which has seen to nearly 100 earthquakes per day to announce the upcoming natural event.
According to the HVO, 10 earthquakes per week is the usual norm, but it has recently increased to a worrying over 40 earthquakes registered per week. The increased activity has drawn the attention of both the HVO and the USGS, who have changed the alert status of the still active volcano.
As stated by geophysicist, Asta Miklius, from HVO, the two magma reservoirs belonging to Mauna Loa have recently seen worrying activity that “fits the definition of a volcano that is in unrest”. However, she has emphasized that this is not a clear sign that an eruption is coming, just that it’s possible sometime in the future.
According to geologist Frank Trusdell, the seismic activity is expected to grow and become more persistent with time, so the HVO will have the volcano under close observation just in case the population needs to be alerted about a definite eruption.
Head scientist of HVO, Tina Neal, has reassured that the disturbances can go on for weeks, months or years, and even after that, it’s not certain that an eruption is imminent. A similar episode occurred in 2005, when the state of unrest did not lead to an actual eruption in spite of the possibility that it would.
Further increase in activity has not been confirmed if it would pose as trouble for the NASA team currently undergoing their Mars simulation program, HI-SEAS, on the slopes of Mauna Loa. The team of six members has begun their project on August 28th, isolating themselves in a dome at the base of the volcano, and will be staying there for an entire year.
However, HVO scientists have stated that it’s too early to tell with clear certainty that an eruption is coming soon, or that it ever will.
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