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Volcano Update

Is Mauna Loa due to erupt soon?

March 25 is the 30th anniversary of the most recent eruption of Mauna Loa, Hawaii Island’s largest volcano. According to historical records, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, an average rate of one eruption every five years. When we look at the past 3,000 years of Mauna Loa’s eruptive history, we see it has erupted about once every six years.

Kilauea’s summit eruption is now six years old

Six years is a blink of an eye in geologic time, but it can fly by for people, too. In a way, it doesn’t seem very long ago that the summit eruption began, with a small explosion that threw blocks around the Halemaumau Crater rim. On the other hand, so much has happened at the new vent that it is getting harder to remember what it was like when Kilauea Caldera was open to traffic and Halemaumau was quiet.

A recap of the Kamoamoa fissure eruption

March 5, 2014, marked the third anniversary of the onset of Kilauea Volcano’s four-day-long Kamoamoa fissure eruption. This brief episode marked the end of the eruptive vent established east of Puu Oo in 2007 and presaged a return of activity to Puu Oo that continues today.

A look at the inner workings of HVO’s seismic lab

Soon after a large earthquake occurs, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory publicizes the preliminary location and magnitude. Have you ever wondered why the location and magnitude of the event sometimes change? Or why it may take awhile to provide the final “reviewed” earthquake report on our website?

What lies beneath: The volume of Kilauea’s magma chambers

Ask a child to draw a volcano, and he or she will likely sketch a cone-shaped mountain erupting lava high into the air — with possibly a dinosaur or two thrown in for good measure. An older child might include a red blob under the mountain representing the volcano’s magma chamber. This child may be on his or her way to becoming a volcanologist. One of the most fundamental questions of volcanology today is: “How big is that red blob under the mountain?”

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Sled dogs slide by vigorous volcanoes

While most football fans have recovered from Super Bowl XLVIII, the most exciting time of year is just beginning for sled-dog-racing enthusiasts. As this article goes to press, the final finishers of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled-dog race will have traversed the rugged Alaskan interior and crossed the finish line in Yukon, Canada.

Exploring the deep source of Hawaiian volcanoes

Welcome to Hawaii Island’s fifth annual Volcano Awareness Month. Throughout January, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, in cooperation with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii County Civil Defense, will offer public talks across the island. For more information about each talk, go to HVO’s website, hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

Kilauea’s Puu Oo eruption still going after 31 years

On Friday, Kilauea’s Puu Oo eruption surpassed 31 years of activity. The ongoing eruption has evolved tremendously during its complex history. While it is impossible to recount in detail every episode of this long-lived east rift zone eruption in a Volcano Watch article, we mark its anniversary with a recap of highlights through the years.

Gas numbers are up but emission rates are not

The gas emissions from Kilauea volcano have been variable within a fairly steady range for the past few years; however, the numbers we use to characterize and report the emission rates will increase dramatically in 2014. This change in numbers is the result of using more accurate techniques to measure those emission rates and is not a change in the emission rates themselves.

Fallen ash has a story to tell

Last week we showed that Kilauea has explosive eruptions that can carry volcanic ash, less than 0.08 inch across, and small lapilli, 0.08 to 2.5 inches across, high into the sky. Today we track the flight of two small lapilli, one confined to the trade winds and one rising higher.

What goes up must come down, at least at volcanoes

In past Volcano Watches, we’ve emphasized a radically new way to view Kilauea — as an explosive volcano. Though not explosive now, it was dominantly explosive during 60 percent, or 1,500 years, of the past 2,500 years. Its latest major period of explosiveness lasted 300 years between the dawn of the New World and the Napoleonic era, which ended in 1815.