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Scientists monitor direction and timing of Mauna Loa flows

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VC: HVO/USGS & M. Patrick (Nov. 30 – Dec. 2, 2022)
  • Taken from the intersection of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the old saddle road, USGS scientists take laser rangefinder measurements of the main flow front of fissure 3 from Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone eruption to determine where it is relative to the highway. USGs photo by J. Ball.
  • View of fissure 3 erupting on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone erupting during the morning of December 2, 2022. Fissure 4 continues to be active, but with very little eruptive activity observed this morning. USGS image by F. Trusdell.
  • December 1, 2022 – USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists deploy buckets downwind of the erupting fissures to collect samples. These samples will be analyzed to learn about lava being erupted by Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone.
  • View of fissure 3 on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone erupting during the morning of December 1, 2022. Fissure 3 continues to be the dominant of two erupting fissures on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone.
  • View of fissure 3 on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone erupting during the morning of December 1, 2022. Fissure 3 continues to be the dominant of two erupting fissures on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone.

HI-EMA deploys team to support Hawai‘i County;
Begins planning work to reduce long-term impacts

Update: 12:49 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, 2022

The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency has deployed a team to Hilo to assist with the County’s emergency response to the volcanic eruption of Mauna Loa, the agency reports.

At the same time, HI-EMA is coordinating analysis of potential consequences to the Big Island economy, infrastructure, transportation network, and other effects if the eruption were to eventually damage the Daniel K. Inouye Highway or other significant systems.

“While the lava is moving very slowly at the moment and doesn’t pose an imminent hazard to populated areas, it’s still a hazard with huge destructive potential,” said Luke Meyers, administrator of HI-EMA said in a press release. “We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t work to define the possible impacts and recommend ways to reduce or eliminate them.”

Meyers traveled to Hilo Thursday with a HI-EMA team to meet with county officials and the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency team, which has been activated 24 hours a day since the eruption started Sunday.


Meyers also took part Thursday in a 2.5-hour overflight of the eruption area with the Civil Air Patrol. “This was a good opportunity to see the hazards and threats from the Mauna Loa eruption,” he said. “It really gave me a better perspective of the situation and where the lava flow is going.”

The four-person Emergency Management Assistance Team deployed to Hilo will support the HCCDA, helping with operations, planning and logistical challenges during the emergency. The team also will help to ensure that any needs the County identifies can be quickly matched up with available resources and data, according to the release.

HI-EMA personnel also are coordinating with subject-matter experts to assemble a framework for addressing the consequences — both immediate and long-term — should the lava eventually damage or destroy part of the highway, power lines, or other crucial systems.

“Cutting the highway or other critical infrastructure could affect economic activity, increase commute times, complicate delivery of goods and services, or a whole host of other potential consequences,” said Meyers. “As part of HI-EMA’s support role, we’re developing a blueprint that can be used to anticipate and mitigate those consequences, and maybe even prevent some of them.”

Fissure 3 continues slow advance
Flow front now 2.7 miles from the Daniel K. Inouye Hwy

Update: 9:52 a.m., Friday, Dec. 2, 2022


The Northeast Rift Zone eruption of Mauna Loa continues, with one active fissure, No. 3, feeding a lava flow downslope. Fissure 4 is sluggish, and fissures 1 and 2 are no longer active, according to an update issued by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.  

“Fissure 3 is generating a lava flow traveling to the north toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road) that has reached relatively flatter ground and slowed down significantly over the past couple of days, as expected,” the HVO reports.  

According to the HVO, the lava flow has advanced at a rate of about 150 feet per hour over the last 24 hours. As of 7 a.m. HST Friday morning, the flow front was about 2.7 miles from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road).

Fissure 4 remains active, “but with very little eruptive activity observed this morning.”   

The HVO advises that advance rates may be highly variable over the coming days and weeks due to the way lava is emplaced on flat ground.


“On flat ground, lava flows spread out and inflate. Individual lobes may advance quickly, and then stall. Additional breakouts may occur if  lava channels get clogged upslope. There are many variables at play and both the direction and timing of flow advance are  expected to change over periods of hours to days, making it difficult to estimate when or if the flow will impact Daniel K. Inouye Highway,” according to the latest HVO update.

Volcanic gas plumes are lofting high and vertically into the atmosphere before being blown to the west at high altitude, generating vog in areas downwind. Pele’s hair (strands of volcanic glass) fragments are being wafted great distances and have been reported as far the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, according to the HVO.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rates of approximately 180,000 tonnes per day (t/d) were measured on Dec. 1, 2022. 

Tremor (a signal associated with subsurface fluid movement) continues in the location of the currently active fissures. “This indicates that magma is still being supplied to the fissure, and activity is likely to continue as long as we see this signal,” the HVO reports.

There is no active lava within Moku’āweoweo caldera, and the Southwest Rift Zone is not erupting. “We do not expect any eruptive activity outside the Northeast Rift Zone. No property is at risk currently,” according to the update.


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