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Report on Mauna Loa (United States) — 25 September-1 October 2002

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 September-1 October 2002
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Mauna Loa (United States). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 September-1 October 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (25 September-1 October 2002)


Mauna Loa

United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


HVO reported on 30 September that a pattern of slow deflation occurring at Mauna Loa for the past 9 years abruptly changed in mid-May when the summit area began to slowly swell and stretch. Global Positioning System measurements revealed that distances across the summit caldera (Moku`aweoweo) have been lengthening at a rate of 5-6 cm per year, and the caldera has widened about 2 cm since 12 May. The summit area was slightly higher than before mid-May, consistent with swelling. In addition, the upper part of the SE flank showed outward movement. Seismicity remained low at Mauna Loa, although it may have been slightly higher level than during the pre-inflation interval.

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.

Sources: Associated Press, US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)