Putting the Mauna Loa rumble into perspective: Travel Weekly | Tech US News


Christine Hitt

Christine Hitt

Word traveled quickly through the islands that Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, is experiencing more earthquakes than usual. It is not currently erupting, but an increase in small earthquakes saw its advisory level raised from green to yellow in September. While that means it will be closely monitored by the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, I want to be very clear: There’s no need to panic or cancel travel plans to Hawaii’s Big Island.

When the neighboring Kilauea volcano erupted in 2018, much of the news focused on the destruction it caused without orienting the viewer to where it was happening geographically. So while the world was focused on the lava flows on the east side of the island, the rest of the island, including Hilo, Kona, Waikoloa, and Waimea were not affected (except for the vog, or volcanic smog, that occasionally blew your address). But you’d never know other cities were operating normally by watching the news, and tourism to the island suffered because of it.

So when it comes to Hawaii’s volcanoes, keep in mind that the Big Island is just what its nickname suggests — it’s big — and Hawaii’s shield volcanoes don’t fall into the same explosive category as Mount St. Helens. Hawaii’s volcanoes do not blow their tops; they are not conical, but are known for their gentle slopes. And when there are volcanic eruptions, it doesn’t mean there’s lava covering the whole island.

When it comes to Mauna Loa, understanding the facts will help you. The Hawaii Volcano Observatory has detected between 40 and 50 earthquakes a day since mid-September, when it was used to recording about 20 earthquakes a day, which is why the warning level was raised to yellow. But when you compare that number to the hundreds of daily tremors recorded for weeks before the volcano last erupted in 1983, you can see why scientists say, “there is no indication that an eruption is imminent.” That’s a huge difference.

If an eruption is more likely, the advisory level will be upgraded to orange or red. It’s impossible to know when that would happen or if Mauna Loa will simply shut up. But for now, all is well, keep traveling and check the US Geological Survey for the latest updates.


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