Mauna Loa Awakens

I am not certain what woke me up at one AM, but I was awake. Before going back to sleep I decided to check the satellite photos to see if I might get some telescope time before dawn. But what I found online had me totally awake and grabbing a couple batteries for the camera.

Mauna Loa has awoken.

I was soon driving out from the house to a point above the village with a clear view of the mauna. The whole southern sky an angry red over the village as I drove. I did not have to drive far, just a couple minutes from the house where you can find a clear view. Pulling off I set up the camera and shot.

I was not the only one out, half a dozen cars could be seen stopped along Waikoloa Road to view the eruption. The whole mauna is lit up red and it looks like the west flank is erupting, not just the caldera as Civil Defense currently insists. Just the clouds lit up on that side?

Life is intertesting.

Mauna Loa Eruption from Waikoloa
Mauna Loa Eruption from Waikoloa
Summit Webcam of Mauna Loa Eruption
A summit webcam view of the new Mauna Loa eruption showing an active rift across the caldera floor.

Update: By dawn much of the caldera has flooded with lava. Scale is hard to see in the photos, you have to recall that the caldera is almost two miles across and three miles from end to end.

Mauna Loa Caldera Eruption
The Mauna Loa caldera eruption at dawn Nov 28, 2022

Update 9:11am: The eruption has already migrated to a series of fissures on the northeast flank. The typical Mauna Loa eruption script is a summit caldera eruption followed by a flank eruption a few days, or a few weeks later. We have just seen that happen in a few hours.

I am including a couple photos here taken by a co-worker as she commuted across the saddle this morning at dawn. You can already see the lava flows making their way into the saddle…

Mauna Loa Eruption
Mauna Loa Erption at Dawn, photo by Marcela Balleza
Mauna Loa Eruption
Mauna Loa Eruption at Dawn, photo by Marcela Balleza

This is a Bit Concerning

Earthquake activity is on a bit of an uptick around here. While the mag 3.9 that woke us up a few nights ago was probably just a settling event under Mauna Kea, much of the remaining activity is under Mauna Loa. This includes a 3.7 magnitude event last night, part of an ongoing swarm under the long mountian.

Mauna Loa earthquake swarm 5 Oct 2022
Mauna Loa earthquake swarm 5 Oct 2022

Mauna Loa’s activity has remained elevated for some weeks now. There are two swarm centers. One directly under the caldera, but more interestingly a persistent swarm under the northwest flank a few kilometers away.

All of this has the island buzzing with concern. On social media, in the local papers, Mauna Loa is the subject of much speculation. The official line is that no eruption is imminent, but officials are quick to remind residents to monitor local emergency channels and have an evaculation plan at the ready.

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The Impacts of Sugar

The impact of the sugar industry in these islands simply cannot be overstated. For over a century sugar was the dominant industry in the islands consuming land, water, and people. These islands were shaped by sugar, physically and culturally.

An abandoned truck sits outside the Kōloa sugar mill
An abandoned truck sits outside the Kōloa sugar mill

So much of what you see today is a direct resut of sugar, many people and cultures that now call these islands home are descended from the immigrant laborers who came to work the plantations. These immigrants brought with them thier languages and so much more. So many traditions, foods, and words, blended with the Native Hawaiian culture to create the island culture we enjoy.

While this legacy is seen on almost all of the islands it seems most visible on the southern shore of Kauai, perhaps as these plantations were some of the last to shut down, and very little has replaced or re-developed in the area. Plantation towns sit in the shadow of rusting mills that loom over the landscape.

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