The world’s largest volcano, located in Hawaii, has begun to show signs of a possible eruption in the future. After nearly three decades of being restful, the giant, active volcano is waking up. Over the past 13 months, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recorded increasing levels of seismic activity in Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano.
At least four earthquake swarms, which are earthquakes that occur closely in location and time, have occurred since March of last year. The swarms began with a few earthquakes northwest of Mauna Loa’s summit followed by more earthquakes at the summit days to a month later. All of the earthquakes have been less than a 2.2 in seismic activity except for one magnitude 3.5 earthquake. This much activity has not occurred since the last time the volcano erupted for three weeks in 1984. Hawaii’s Mauna Loa also erupted in 1975, only nine years prior. During the last eruption, Mauna Loa’s lava came within four miles of the city of Hilo. Although scientists say that it is too soon to be able to predict when the next eruption will occur, after a long silence, the Hawaiian volcano shows signs of activity that could lead to a possible blast in the near future.
The earthquake swarms that have been occurring within the past year had occurred before in the same location and were of the same type that preceded the last two eruptions. This type of activity is usually not seen outside of possible pre-eruptive earthquake successions. However, so far, the earthquakes have not caused enough alarm to implement the volcano warning system. Regardless, seismologists are still keeping a close eye on the volcano.
Mauna Loa covers nearly half of the Hawaiian Islands, and despite being one of the world’s most active volcanoes, is a popular hiking destination. It has been called a “Decade Volcano,” because it is one of the 16 volcanoes recognized by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) as having properties deemed worthy of in-depth study because of their historically destructive and large eruptions in close proximity to highly populated areas. If there is a better understanding of these types of volcanoes, it is easier to reduce the severity and prevent natural disasters of large proportions from occurring.
Although eruptive volcanoes in Hawaii are not known to produce many casualties, the property damage due to rock and lava is fairly common and not only costly, but hazardous as well. Many Hawaiians face danger when living on or near active volcanoes. This could include lava flows, volcanic smog, explosive eruptions or damaging earthquakes. As the population in these areas continue to increase, it becomes more difficult to reduce the possible risk of volcanic hazards.
Mauna Lao is stirring back to life after decades of remaining quiet. There are not many instances in historical record where this volcano has had such long gaps of time between eruptions. Due to the recent signs of life in Mauna Loa, scientists say there is basically a 100 percent chance that this volcano will erupt again and that the consequences could be disastrous for Hawaii.
By Addi Simmons