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Report on Mauna Loa (United States) — January 1978

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 1 (January 1978)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Mauna Loa (United States) New fumarolic activity and increased inflation rate

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1978. Report on Mauna Loa (United States). In: Squires, D (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 3:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN197801-332020.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Mauna Loa

United States

19.475°N, 155.608°W; summit elev. 4170 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


The July 1975 eruption of Mauna Loa has been described by Lockwood and others (1976). Soon after this eruption, Mauna Loa began to inflate, and, chiefly on the basis of the historic patterns of activity, the USGS predicted that a second eruption, followed soon thereafter by a larger eruption from the NE rift, was likely to occur before July 1978. During the first half of 1977, however, local seismicity and inflation rates declined considerably, and in July 1977 the USGS issued a press release withdrawing the "before July 1978" date for the predicted eruption. Seismicity beneath the summit region has remained low, but measurements made in December 1977 indicate that the inflation rate for June-December 1977 had increased to that recorded during 1976. Furthermore, dense fume clouds have been emitted from the 1975 eruptive fissures since October 1977. The USGS has installed gas monitoring devices on one of these fumaroles and is continuing to monitor the volcano closely.

Reference. Lockwood, J., Koyanagi, R., Tilling, R., Holcomb, R., and Peterson, D., 1976, Mauna Loa threatening: Geotimes, v. 21, no. 6, p. 12-15.

Geologic Background. Massive Mauna Loa shield volcano rises almost 9 km above the sea floor to form the world's largest active volcano. Flank eruptions are predominately from the lengthy NE and SW rift zones, and the summit is cut by the Mokuaweoweo caldera, which sits within an older and larger 6 x 8 km caldera. Two of the youngest large debris avalanches documented in Hawaii traveled nearly 100 km from Mauna Loa; the second of the Alika avalanches was emplaced about 105,000 years ago (Moore et al. 1989). Almost 90% of the surface of the basaltic shield volcano is covered by lavas less than 4000 years old (Lockwood and Lipman, 1987). During a 750-year eruptive period beginning about 1500 years ago, a series of voluminous overflows from a summit lava lake covered about one fourth of the volcano's surface. The ensuing 750-year period, from shortly after the formation of Mokuaweoweo caldera until the present, saw an additional quarter of the volcano covered with lava flows predominately from summit and NW rift zone vents.

Information Contacts: G. Eaton, HVO, Hawaii.