Scientists have revealed the full threat of the world’s largest active volcano

Scientists have revealed the full threat of the world's largest active volcano

Active for at least the past 700,000 years, and dominating Hawaii’s landscape, Mona Lava is Earth’s largest shield volcano (at least above water) —

and scientific data reveals more about it. What might be enough to cause an eruption in the future? By looking at changes in the ground tracked by GPS and satellite data, researchers in 2021 were able to model the flow of magma inside the volcano, as well as determine what the next big eruption is likely to be.

What will not happen? From Mouna Loa In the ‘likely’ column: a major earthquake. This conclusion is based on measurements of magma influx that have taken place since 2014, guided by the topographic pressure of the surrounding rock.

Scientists have revealed the full threat of the world's largest active volcano
Scientists have revealed the full threat of the world’s largest active volcano

“A quake of greatness 6 or higher would ease the pressure brought about by the convergence of magma along the sub-flat issue under the western flank of the spring of gushing lava,” said Bhuvan Vargo, a specialist at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

There are geography. The University of Miami, in a public statement going with the 2021 review. “It could lead to an earthquake.”

The scientists determined that 0.11 square kilometers (about 0.04 square miles) of new magma flowed into a new location in the volcano’s chamber between 2014 and 2020, changing direction according to pressure. Magma physical changes of this type have not been measured before.

Along with surface lava flows and ground changes along the fault the volcano sits on, the intrusion of magma changes the shape of the volcano – and its likelihood of eruption.

Volcanologists already know that flank activity and eruptions at Mauna Loa are closely related, which means that changes in these flanks caused by magma injection can make a big difference in how the volcano behaves.

“An earthquake can be a game changer,” explained marine geologist Fak Ameling from the University of Miami. “This will set gases free from the magma which, contrasted with shaking a soft drink bottle, will make extra tension and fervor, which is sufficient to break the stone over the magma.”

According to the data, Mouna Loa is already under a “pretty heavy” topographic load. The intrusion of more magma would increase the chance of earthquakes and eruptions, but perhaps not necessarily: the lack of movement beneath the volcano’s western flank leads researchers to think this is where earthquakes might occur.

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Recent eruptions have emphasized how important early warning can be: In 1950, Mauna Lava erupted, sending lava ashore in just three hours.

Both the 1950 eruption and another major earthquake in 1984 were preceded by several earthquakes. Predicting eruption times is an incredibly complex task, involving many variables and assumptions — but careful magma-mapping strategies like the one in this new study can provide invaluable data for future modeling.

“It’s an interesting problem,” Ameling said. “We can explain how and why the magma body has changed over the last six years. We will continue to observe and this will lead to better models for predicting where the next eruption will occur. “