The folks at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) are doing their always incredible job of tracking, mapping and archiving the twin volcanic eruptions currently underway on the state’s Big Island of both the Mauna Loa volcanoes and the smaller Kilauea volcano 21 miles away.
This video of the lava flow occurring with the Mauna Loa eruption is an example of USGS scientists’ work there. I swear—following the eruption coverage from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) folks and emergency responding agencies in Hawaii is the equivalent of the university-level course in volcanology. It’s fascinating material–well done and incredibly informative. Clearly, for residents in Hawaii and those planning to travel to Hawaii–which, by the way, is taking place without interruption at this point—every word of the USGS coverage is followed closely.
The lava flow we see in this video is occurring from one of the two fissures (cracks in the Earth’s surface) HIGH on the volcano—10,000 to 11,000 ft. above sea level and flowing downhill toward the northeast down to flatter terrain around 7,000 ft. above sea level. It’s important to note this lava flow is occurring far from resorts and populated areas of the island.
The lava has descended to flatter terrain and has slowed at a point a bit more than 3 miles from the cross-island Daniel K. Inouye Highway–named for the late and highly regarded Hawaii U.S. senator. Anyone who has been to the Big Island knows that the Inouye Highway is an important thoroughfare used to cross the island–which is quite expansive. The highway–formerly referred to as Saddle Road–is used by many who live on one side of the Big Island and work on the other. There’s a coastal highway which can be used by folks traveling to and from work or driving around the Big Island–but it takes much longer. That’s why authorities are exploring potential options for routing traffic across the island in such a way that interference from the lava can be minimized.
Viewing the lava and the eruption of Mauna Loa is proving quite an attraction and authorities are setting up viewing areas so folks can pull aside and watch nature at work. This is being done at the same time potential alternative routes are being explored should lava ultimately cross the highway and cut off traffic flow there.
Because the downhill flowing lava has reached flatter terrain, its advance has slowed and current estimates–subject to updates–suggest the lava may reach the highway in about 5 days. The idiosyncracies of lava flow make estimates of potential arrival times at the highway or elsewhere subject to adjustment.
It’s important to note these eruptions are not threatening populated areas or property at this point nor are they interfering with travel to and from Hawaii or its big island. Air travel to and from the Islands is normal–if you’re heading out to Hawaii.
Spectacular Satellite Animation of Volcanic Plume
Give this satellite animation a moment to load–it will do so in choppy fashion for about a minute. It’s worth the wait. Once loaded, you’ll have a spectacular view at just where on the BIG ISLAND of Hawaii the Mauna Loa eruption is occurring. It offers a spectacular view of the localized nature of the volcanic eruption. This animation has been uploaded by researcher Scott Bachmeier at the Cooperative Institute of Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.