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New breakout at Mauna Loa flow front slows the advance of lava towards highway

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Image of the fissure 3 lava channel near the vent, high on the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa. Near the vent, the lava flow velocity has been measured at 32-39 feet per second (10-12 meters per second) within the lava channel. USGS image by M. Patrick. (Dec. 7, 2022)

A new breakout at the Mauna Loa flow front reported overnight has removed lava from the channel, slowing the advance rate of the main flow, according to a new update issued by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on Wednesday morning.

24-hour gif of fissure 3 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa volcano [M8cam]. The camera is located East of fissure 3 and looks west. Disclaimer: The webcams are operational 24/7 and faithfully record the dark of night if there are no sources of incandescence or other lights. Thermal webcams record heat rather than light and get better views through volcanic gas. At times, clouds and rain obscure visibility. The cameras are subject to sporadic breakdown, and may not be repaired immediately. Some cameras are observing an area that is off-limits to the general public because of significant volcanic hazards.

Fissure 3, the only active fissure at this time, continues to feed lava downhill, moving slowly northward toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road).  The flow front was last located 1.8 miles from the highway, as of 6 a.m., and had slowed its advance rate to 20 feet per hour.

The new breakout is located about 2.8 miles behind the tip of the main flow on the east side, according to the update, according to the HVO.

A close up view of the fissure 3 lava channel erupting from Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone, as seen by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory field crews on the morning of December 5, 2022. The large bumps are standing waves in the lava. Channel velocities here, closer to the vent where the channels are narrow, were measured at 26-36 feet per second (8.2-11 meters per second). However, farther downslope, the wide lava flow front is advancing slowly at about average rate of about 20 feet per hour (6 meters per hour) over the 24-hour period prior to December 5, 2022. USGS image by L. Gallant.

The HVO reminds the public: “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.”

The Northeast Rift Zone eruption of Mauna Loa continues the morning of December 7, 2022. This image, taken during a morning overflight, shows an overflow from the main channel several kilometers upslope from the lava flow front. USGS image by F. Trusdell.

Scientists with the HVO continue to report the wafting of volcanic glass strands, or Pele’s hair as far away as Laupāhoehoe.  

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