Friday, December 9, 2022

Quiet on the Mountain: Mauna Loa in a pause? Not quite.

Things are pretty calm up on Mauna Loa, with the active fissure glowing, but not aggressively fountaining, and still apparently producing a little lava.

It will be some time before it is clear what's going on, whether this is the start of a pause in the Mauna Loa eruption, or the end of this event, or something entirely different.

"A return to high levels of lava discharge could occur," the USGS said in its Friday morning update.

The image above is a USGS webcam view of Fissure 3, which until two days ago was pumping with high lava fountains and feeding a long flow that threatened the Saddle Road/Daniel K. Inouye Highway. The image was collected at 8:36 a.m. Friday, December 22, 2022.

There's still some glowing rock, but fountains are not visible in this image. The USGS update late Thursday indicated that the amount of lava had dropped significantly from Wednesday to Thursday. And this morning it reported that there was low fountaining that was feeding a small flow that goes a mile or so from the vent.

The long flow that got to within 1.7 miles of the highway is essentially stopped, although as it cools, it is spreading out a little.

An image from a webcam a few minutes later overlooking Moku'aweoweo  indicated the summit caldera was similarly quiet.

Another webcam shot from Mauna Kea, looking across to Mauna Loa at 8:36 a.m. shows smoke up on the Mauna Loa rift zone, but no fire.

View the webcam images yourself here.

What does it all mean? The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists admit they're not certain.

"The significance of the reduced supply of lava is not yet clear; it is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely," the USGS reported in its morning update.

It reported that there is still magma moving up into the mountain, as indicated by continuing tremor within Mauna Loa.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2022

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