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Cone 157 feet high develops at Mauna Loa’s fissure 3; caution urged on DKI Highway

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View of the Fissure 3 lava fountains that are throwing molten material up to 82-98 ft (25-30 m) into the air high on the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa. Over the past few days the molten bombs thrown into the air cool and have built up a cone around the lava fountains. USGS image by D. Downs. PC: USGS/HVO (Dec. 2, 2022)

Flow front slows to 40 ft/hr;
Now 2.5 miles from DKI Highway

Update: 8:45 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022

The Northeast Rift Zone eruption of Mauna Loa continues, with little change over the past 24 hours, according to a new update issued by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.

One active fissure, fissure 3, is feeding a lava flow downslope. The HVO reports that fissures 1, 2, and 4 are no longer active.  

“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 several days,” according to the HVO. Scientists say this movement and direction is as expected.  

As of 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, the flow front was about 2.5 miles from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road), and was advancing at an average rate of about 40 feet per hour. “Though the advance rate has slowed over the past 24 hours, the lava flow remains active,” according to the HVO. 

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HVO geologists observed only glowing cracks in the area of fissure 4 during the eruption monitoring overflight this morning.  

Fissure 3 on Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone has produced several lava channels that are winding their way down the northeast slopes of the volcano. These channels are surrounded by levees that insulate the lava and keep it fluid and moving at a brisk pace downslope. As it cools it can form a black crust on top of it in places. In this photo, the lava channels branch and rejoin each other to immediately branch again. USGS image by D. Downs. PC: USGS/HVO (Dec. 1, 2022)

“Advance rates may be highly variable over the coming days and weeks. On the flat ground between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, lava flows advance more slowly, spread out, and inflate. Individual lobes may advance quickly, and then stall. Additional breakouts may occur if lava channels get blocked upslope. There are many variables at play and both the direction and timing of flow advances 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 update from the HVO.

Daniel K Inouye Highway traffic. PC: Hawaiʻi Island Police Department

Motorists reminded to drive with caution on DKI Highway

Hawaiʻi Police Department is reminding motorists to drive with caution on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (DKI Highway/Saddle Road), due to increased traffic congestion between the Mauna Kea Access Road and Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area as a result of the Mauna Loa eruption in the Northeast Rift Zone.

Mayor Mitch Roth’s Emergency Rule #2, issued Nov. 30, 2022, prohibits parking and traversing/walking on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and its shoulders between the 16-mile marker ending at the intersection of the DKI Highway and Highway 190 (also known as Hawaiʻi Belt Road). Pursuant to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section 127A-29(a), any person violating this Rule shall be guilty of a violation and, upon conviction, fined not more than $1,000.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said Major John Briski of HPD’s Area I Operations Bureau.
“We continue to ask for voluntary compliance with parking restrictions and will be issuing citations, and towing vehicles if necessary.”

Since the eruption began, police have issued 28 citations related to parking issues in prohibited areas along Saddle Road.

The State Department of Transportation has lowered the speed limit on portions of DKI Highway approaching mile marker 28.5 as part of the County’s Traffic Hazard Safety Plan. The revised speed limit approaching mile marker 28.5 will be reduced by 10 mph increments until it is 35 mph. The speed limit returns to 60 mph roughly 3,000 feet from mile marker 28.5.

To increase public safety and reduce traffic congestion, the County has implemented a traffic hazard safety plan along the DKI Highway. The plan provides a one-way traffic pattern on the Old Saddle Road, with the entrance located directly across from the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area. The route spans 4.5 miles to a junction point located just before Puʻuhuluhulu. Parking will only be allowed on the right side of the road and no vehicle can remain in the area for more than 90 minutes.

Hawai‘i Police Department urges motorists to be extra vigilant when driving on DKI Highway and to not take risks to view the lava event. Poor decisions can lead to catastrophic results, which the police are trying desperately to avoid taking place.  

Flow map and environmental conditions

Sulfur dioxide emission rates of approximately 180,000 tonnes per day (t/d) were measured on Dec. 1, 2022, and remain elevated. The HVO reports that 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 Laupāhoehoe, according to the Saturday morning update.

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“Tremor (a signal associated with subsurface fluid movement) continues beneath 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,” according to the HVO.

There is no active lava within Moku’āweoweo caldera nor the Southwest Rift Zone. “We do not expect any eruptive activity outside the Northeast Rift Zone,” the agency reports.

The Northeast Rift Zone eruption of Mauna Loa has continued into its fifth full day. Fissure 3 is generating lava flows primarily to the north; fissure 4 continues to be active, but with very little eruptive activity observed this morning. Webcam and satellite views overnight allowed USGS analysts to accurately map some of the most active flows, displayed in red here, along with older flows further uprift, in part of Mokuʻāweoweo Caldera, and in the upper summit region southwest of the caldera. Elsewhere the progression of the flows is marked by points for the flow fronts, mapped by HVO field crews. PC: USGS/HVO (Dec. 2, 2022)

Resources and links:

Previous update

Cone forms around fissure 3;
Flow front makes slow advance at 150 ft/hr

Update: 4:39 p.m., Dec. 2, 2022

The Northeast Rift Zone eruption of Mauna Loa continues, with little change since Friday morning, according to the latest updated issued Friday afternoon by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Fissure 3 continues to feeding a lava flow downslope, while fissure 4 is sluggish, and fissures 1 and 2 are no longer active.  

“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,” according to the HVO. Scientists say this direction and timing is as expected.  

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The HVO reports that the flow front was about 2.7 mi from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and was advancing at a rate of 150 feet per hour at last report.

Around fissure 3, a cone is developing, measured as approximately 157 high.

“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 an HVO update.

Scientist with the HVO note that 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 also being wafted great distances and have been reported as far the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.  

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

“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,” according to HVO scientists.

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 HVO.

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