Travel warning issued as Mauna Loa erupts

 Tuesday, November 29, 2022 

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Mauna Loa is noted as world’s largest volcano, after 38 years of long silence, began erupting late Sunday night.  The hot and molten lava is shooting 100 feet to 200 feet (30 to 60 meters) into the air. Mauna Loa is spewing sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gases. They form volcanic smog, or vog, when they mix with vapor, oxygen and dust in sunlight. As a result, state health officials are urging people to cut back on outdoor exercise and other activities that cause heavy breathing.

Travel warning has also been issued.  Tourism has been affected. Mauna Loa is a popular tourist attraction in Hawaii. An easier way to experience Mauna Loa is to drive the spectacular Kaʻū Scenic Byway, which extends from Kona to the southernmost tip of the island of Hawaiʻi and meanders around the base of Maunaloa through sections of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Here the tourists can get the bird’s eye view of this and other Hawaiʻi Island volcanoes on a helicopter or airplane tour.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a travel advisory for Hilo International Airport, which is roughly 40 miles east of the volcano. All passengers with flights to Hilo International Airport or the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport, which is roughly 35 miles northwest of the volcano, are urged to check with their airline prior to heading to the airport.

Southwest Airlines has suspended operations at Hilo International Airport on Monday due to the ashfall advisory, Sam Spangler, a reporter for KHON2 in Honolulu, tweeted. Hawaiian Airlines is offering travel waivers for those with upcoming flights to their respective Hawaii destinations.

On Monday morning, the volcano alert level was upgraded from an advisory to a warning.

According to the USGS, earthquake activity increased from five to 10 quakes a day in June 2022, to some 10 to 20 quakes a day in July and August. On Sept. 23 and 29, peak numbers of 100 earthquakes a day were recorded.

This increase in seismic activity resulted in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to close Mauna Loa summit to all backcountry hikers until further notice. Since records began in 1843, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times, averaging one eruption every 5 years.

“However, most eruptions occurred prior to 1950, averaging 3.5 years between eruptions,” USGS wrote in a report about the volcano, which takes up more than half of the Big Island in Hawaii and rises 13,679 feet above the Pacific Ocean. “Since 1950, there have only been two eruptions; a summit eruption 25 years later in 1975 and by a rift eruption 9 years later in 1984.” Sunday’s eruption has ended the longest quiet period on record.

Mauna Loa is one of five active volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. The largest subaerial volcano in both mass and volume, Mauna Loa has historically been considered the largest volcano on Earth, dwarfed only by Tamu Massif.

It is an active shield volcano with relatively gentle slopes, with a volume estimated at 18,000 cubic miles (75,000 km3), although its peak is about 125 feet (38 m) lower than that of its neighbor, Mauna Kea. Lava eruptions from Mauna Loa are silica-poor and very fluid, and they tend to be non-explosive.

Mauna Loa is part of the Decade Volcanoes program, which encourages studies of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. Mauna Loa has been monitored intensively by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory since 1912.  The observations of the atmosphere are undertaken at the Mauna Loa Observatory, and of the Sun at the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, both located near the mountain’s summit. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park covers the summit and portions of the southeastern and southwestern flanks of the volcano, and also incorporates Kīlauea, a separate volcano.

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