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

Spatter Cone

Watching the current eruption at Kilauea where the western vent fountains and churns leaves one with a practical understanding of how a spatter cone or spatter rampart forms. The blobs and globs of lava land around the vent where they cool. This builds up a substantial edifice around the vent.

Splatters of lava from the western vent Halemaʻumaʻu
Splatters of lava from the western vent Halemaʻumaʻu

The process is illuminating to watch in this current eruption. Every few minutes a large spash or jet of lava escapes the boiling caldron in the middle. The lava spashes across the ground around the vent. At first bright orange, the splash slowly cools and fades to deep red, then dark at it solidifies. The spatter cone is just a little bit bigger.

The spatter cone grows and changes shape daily. Visiting the eruption after a couple weeks one finds the cone drastically reshaped and much larger. Occasional a side will collapse and the process begins anew.

While it might seem fun to get a closer look at the current vent, this idea is also a quick way to die, the gasses and heat would quickly kill anyone who approached too closely.

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Lava Lake Panorama

One of the things I remembered to do on my second visit to the lava lake was to shoot a panorama set of the lake surface. The result has been assembled here, click on the image to get a full sized version for viewing..

The lake has a number of interesting features most visitors miss when viewing the active vent. The remnant of an older vent can be seen as the rough area on the far side, while on the near side is the raft or floating island that remains from the previous lava lake earlier in the year. Both of these features appear to be floating as they rise along with the lake level.

According to the latest USGS report the lake is approximately eight meters (26 feet) higher at the western end near the active vent than the eastern end. The level has risen about 51 meters (167 feet) since this eruption stated on September 29th for a total volume of 19.9 million cubic meters (5.3 billion gallons) of new lava. An interesting raised edge is visible along the active margin with the thick inactive crust that has formed over the last month.

A panorama of the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu
A panorama of the lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu, click to view the full size image

Yet Another Volcano Run

Once was not enough, I had to do it again. The allure of lava too much I planned yet another run across island in the middle of the night to see the lava at Kilauea.

The western vent spilling lava into the lake at Halemaʻumaʻu
The western vent spilling lava into the lake at Halemaʻumaʻu

This time Deb would come along, mistakenly agreeing to to 0130 alarm clock and possibly regretting it as she climbed out of bed. Thus we drove through the night passing through the park gates a little before 4am.

A larger crowd greeted us this time. The parking lot was lamost half full and there were more folks passing us on the walk out to the viewpoint.

This trip would feature a bit of moonlight over the caldera rather than the dark skies of two weeks ago, a quarter moon in the eastern sky. I had hoped for a few thin moonlit clouds to use in the compositions, but this did not happen. The morning was completely cloud free over the caldera, and nearly calm, the plume rising striaght up from the lava.

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