Scientists lower alert for Mauna Loa, say eruption may end
HONOLULU (AP) — Scientists lowered the alert level for the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island from a warning to a watch on Saturday and said the mountain’s first eruption in nearly 40 years could soon to end.
The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory said in a bulletin that the eruption in the mountain’s northeast rift zone was continuing, but lava production and volcanic gas emissions were “significantly reduced”.
“High eruption rates will not resume due to past eruptive behavior and current behavior suggests the eruption may soon end,” the observatory said. “However, an inflationary trend from Mauna Loa’s summit accompanies the decrease in activity and there is a small possibility that the eruption will continue at very low eruptive rates.”
Meanwhile, he said, a lava flow front had “stalled” nearly 2 miles from Saddle Road, the vital highway that residents and tourists use to travel between the town of Hilo on the east side of the island and the resorts on the west.
Scientists said earlier this week that the road was no longer under imminent threat from lava, allaying fears it could be cut.
Mauna Loa began spouting molten rock on Nov. 27 after being quiet for 38 years, drawing onlookers to admire the glowing spectacle and unnerving people who have experienced destructive eruptions early on. For many Native Hawaiians, the phenomenon has a deep but very personal cultural significance.
The observatory said its scientists continue to monitor the volcano closely and flight restrictions remain in place in the area up to 1,500 feet (457 meters) above ground.