Lava flow from Mauna Loa slows even as volcano continues to emit gas plumes

Officials warn lava advances could be highly variable over the coming days as flow crosses level ground

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, that erupted last week for the first time in nearly four decades, continued to spew lava Saturday, though the flows have slowed to a crawl.

Fissure three in the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii remains active and is feeding a lava flow advancing at an average rate of 150 feet an hour over the past 24 hours. Fissurefour is “sluggish”, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said, while fissures one and two are no longer active.

Officials warned that lava advances could be highly variable over the coming days and weeks as the flow crosses level ground. But the volcano continues to release gas plumes high into the atmosphere before being blown west toward Japan.

That’s generating what is known as vog, a sulphurous, visible haze of air pollution made primarily of water vapor, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gas, according to the the US Geological Survey. Pele’s hair (strands of volcanic glass) is falling in the Humu’ula Saddle area, according the the agency’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

The slow rate of lave flow for the time does not threaten the Daniel K Inouye highway, though local officials have sought to address safety concerns due to increased traffic of “eruption tourists.”

Most volcanoes form above the boundaries of tectonic plates where lava can push through from the Earth’s core. The Hawaii islands are 2,000 miles from a tectonic boundary, puzzling researchers.

Some have theorized that the broad, shield-shaped Mauna Loa, meaning “long mountain” in Hawaiian, rests above a magma plume or “hot spot” that continuously presses upwards. Hawaii County and HVO caution that Mauna Loa’s eruptions can be unpredictable and long-lasting.


Edward Helmore and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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