Lava cuts off access to Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory

Nov. 29, 2:33 p.m.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth is encouraging travelers to visit Hawaii at a time when two volcanoes are erupting simultaneously on the Big Island. Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes haven’t erupted simultaneously since 1984.

“It’s actually a great time to come,” Roth said at a press conference. “People are here and seeing some of the most unbelievable sights ever, and you don’t have to go up to Saddle Road. You can see it from Hilo. You can see it from Kona. You can see it from Kau.”

Mauna Loa’s eruption can be seen alongside Kilauea’s active eruption from the vantage of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which saw “thousands” of visitors on Monday.

Jessica Ferracane, public affairs specialist for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said visitors can view both eruptions at Kupinai Pali (aka Waldron Ledge), which is a very short walk from the Kilauea Visitor Center. Both eruptions can also be seen from the Volcano House hotel.

Though the park is open 24 hours, she recommends visiting before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m., when there are less crowds.

While the volcanoes are erupting, there is no threat to surrounding communities at this time.

Lava cuts off access to Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory

Nov. 29, 2 p.m.

Access to Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory that sits on the north side of the erupting volcano was cut off by lava Tuesday. Lava crossed the access road, Mauna Loa Observatory Road, and power lines, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the observatory, said on Twitter. “All NOAA staff are safe” the agency said. 

Opened in the 1950s, the observatory and research facility collects data looking at climate change. 

Several fissures, openings in the volcanoes, were spewing lava Tuesday. Scientists are calling the largest one fissure 3, and on Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey shared images from a webcam showing fountains of lava at it. 

Webcams show eruption in Mauna Loa’s northeast rift zone

Nov. 29, 10:45 a.m.

A series of webcams operated by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the activity on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, which started erupting Sunday night. 

“The Mauna Kea webcam provides a wider view of Northeast Rift Zone activity,” the USGS posted on Twitter Tuesday morning. “You can check on current conditions by following this link to Mauna Loa webcams.”

The agency also posted images taken at 6 a.m. local time today showing lava flows in the northeast rift zone. The flows are moving in a north-northeast direction. No communities are threatened by the lava.

Lava crosses Mauna Loa Observatory Road overnight

Nov. 29, 9:45 a.m.

Lava flowing from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano crossed Mauna Loa Observatory Road overnight, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The lava is pouring from what scientists are calling fissure 3. A fissure is an opening in the volcano that allows lava to flow.

“Two new flows moving north downrift of fissure 3,” the USGS posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning.

There continues to be no threat to communities. The lava is contained in the northeast rift zone, and there is no activity within the Mokuaweoweo caldera or the southwest rift zone, the USGS said.

“No property is at risk currently,” the USGS said in its Tuesday update. “There is a visible gas plume from the erupting fissure fountains and lava flows, with the plume primarily being blown to the Northwest.”

Cars are parked near an ancient lava field as a lava flow colors the sky above Mauna Loa, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, erupted Monday for the first time in 38 years.

Cars are parked near an ancient lava field as a lava flow colors the sky above Mauna Loa, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, erupted Monday for the first time in 38 years.

Marco Garcia/AP

Air quality in Hawaii could change rapidly as Mauna Loa erupts

Nov. 29, 7:30 a.m.

As lava continued to flow from vents on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, the state’s Department of Health warned of poor air quality across the island. 

The state agency said the air quality was normal Monday afternoon, but warned this could change if volcanic emissions known as vog increase and spread across the state. 

“Conditions are changing rapidly, and poor air quality may be very localized,” the Department of Health warned in a news release.

For updates on air quality in Hawaii, visit the department’s website, which features a real-time map with air-quality levels. On Tuesday morning, locations across the island had “good” air-quality levels.

Mauna Loa, which is considered one of the world’s most active volcanos, erupted within the Mokuaweoweo caldera on Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. local time. The eruption shifted to the northeast rift zone Monday morning and remained contained within this zone as of Tuesday.

Lava is flowing from three openings in the volcano know as fissures. Flows from two of these fissures moved downslope but stopped about 11 miles from Saddle Road, USGS said. The third fissure is feeding lava into the other two. 

“These remain at above 10,000 feet elevation and over 10 miles away from Saddle Road. We do not expect upper fissures to reactivate,” the USGS said. “However, additional fissures could open along the Northeast Rift Zone below the current location, and lava flows can continue to travel downslope.”


David Dreyfus

Flows are moving downslope to the north and are headed in a direction that is not threatening to communities to the area.  

“Our team is on full alert and is prepared to respond to whatever situation may arise as a result of the Mauna Loa eruption,” Mitch Roth, the mayor of Hawaii County, said in a news release Monday afternoon. “That said, we’ve been told that the lava is heading in the best possible direction, which is away from our communities. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and will be providing updates to the community regularly. Until then, we thank our State and County partners, departments, and agencies for their quick action and attention to every detail.” 

The mayor said areas in the southwestern rift zone that are at high risk in the event of a major eruption — including Pahala, Naalehu, Ocean View, Milolii, Napoopoo, Captain Cook, Kealakekua and Keauhou — are not threatened. 

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Written by Cam Smash

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