The recent high lava lake levels at Kīlauea Volcano have caught the attention of visitors and kama‘aina alike. But we shouldn’t forget that unrest at Mauna Loa continues. Ongoing inflation in the upper Southwest Rift Zone and summit areas of Mauna Loa suggests that magma continues to rise into the volcano. The current rate and pattern of deformation are similar to the most recent episode of rapid inflation on Mauna Loa in 2004-2005. Earthquakes have also been occurring at elevated rates, particularly around the areas of inflation in the upper Southwest Rift Zone and summit. Throughout its history, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has taken advantage of advances in technology to better monitor volcanoes and earthquakes. Computers have become faster, methods of transmitting information have improved, and instrumentation has become smaller and more energy efficient.
All these advances have been utilized to create an improved geophysical network that better supports HVO’s monitoring and science efforts. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) enabled a major upgrade to HVO’s monitoring networks on Mauna Loa and Kīlauea, including a conversion to digital telemetry, additional monitoring sites, and improved instrumentation. These enhanced networks can now detect earlier stages of unrest, and the resulting data enables more sophisticated analyses of volcanic processes than were previously possible. Since the two most recent eruptions of Mauna Loa in 1975 and 1984, HVO started using GPS, broadband seismometers, and several types of analyses that were not possible with previous geophysical networks and computers. MORE