In a new study published on May 10 in Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Miami in Florida, in the United States, warn of an imminent eruption of the world’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa in Hawaii.
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Magma flow and devastating earthquakes
Using GPS navigation technology, a team of researchers from the university was able to model the magma flow inside Mauna Loa, taking into account surface lava flows and the movement of tectonic plates along the fault.
According to the university’s press release , researchers have found that the flow of magma and its distribution to the areas surrounding the volcano alters the movement of the rocks there.
When they measured the flow of magma – which occurred between 2014 and 2020 and was destined to inject the rocks surrounding the volcano – the researchers found that approximately 0.11 square kilometers of new magma flowed to a new spot in the volcano’s chamber during that period.
Thus, injecting magma into the areas of the flanks of the volcano will release gaseous columns under pressure huge enough to break the rocks there, which means a very large earthquake that will naturally result in a massive volcanic eruption in Mauna Loa.
Given the stability of the rocks located on the western flank of the volcano, researchers believe that the site of the next earthquake may be there.
Mauna Loa volcano and early warning
Mauna Loa or the Long Mountain is the largest of the five volcanoes on the island of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. Its volume is estimated at about 29,000 cubic km. Its summit rises 37 meters above sea level. Its lava is known to be highly liquid because the concentration of silica is weak in it, which means that it is able to Rapid spread and mass destruction, as happened when the volcano erupted in 1950 and destroyed entire villages.
The recent volcanic eruptions in the world underscore the importance of the early warning system. Here we must mention that when Mauna Loa erupted in 1950, the lava was able to reach the coast in just 3 hours.
We must also note that earthquakes of remarkable intensity preceded that huge volcanic eruption in 1950, and the same scenario was repeated with strong earthquakes before the volcanic eruption that occurred in 1984 as well.
Finally, given the many variables within the scope of studying the potential danger of Mauna Loa, predicting the timing of the eruption is by no means an easy task.
However, the new strategy – which was presented by the University of Miami researchers to accurately map the movement and distribution of magma – could provide us with very important data to enhance future modeling studies, which will eventually lead to the development of better models to predict the location of the next volcanic eruption.