February 3, 2023

Opinion: I’m a volcanologist. Here’s what this Mauna Loa eruption will teach us

3 min read

Editor’s note: Einat Lev, a volcanologist, is an associate research professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. His research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Gordon and Buttymore Foundation, focuses on the dynamics of lava flows at various volcanoes, including Hawaii. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read on More feedback On CNN


When the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii Began to explode On Sunday night, many people were already waiting for it. For months, scientists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO). Noting Inflation of the Earth and increased seismic activity at Mauna Loa indicate the ascent of magma to the surface within the volcano’s plumbing system.

Over the past few weeks, their rates The changes increased. The HVO staff moved from the weekly. Status updates Daily, in anticipation of the eruption.

Anat Leo

Monitoring unrest is only part of the preparation. It is also very important to have a detailed plan for what to do when the eruption finally occurs. For island populations, response plans include evacuation routes, shelters, equipment and access. Latest guidance From civil defense authorities

Whatever you want It hasn’t erupted in nearly four decades.the communities of the island of Hawaii Well aware of such plans, thanks to Mouna Loa’s hyperactive little sister, Kilaueawhich is almost constantly erupting.

Just four years ago, these communities faced a major disaster when fissures (volcanic fissures) opened on Kilauea’s east flank in the middle of a quiet town. A burst of months destroyed the area.

Fortunately, Mauna Loa’s recent eruption is unlikely to cause much damage. Lava is pouring out of fissures at high altitudes, far from any population or property. The only infrastructure damaged so far was a remote mountain road. If the eruption continues. At the current rate, It could cut the highway connecting the eastern and western sides of the island in about a week. It will disrupt traffic across the island, from people going to work to transporting goods, but it is hoped that there will be no significant damage to property.

Like the residents of Hawaii, the volcanology community is gearing up in a big way. Response plans For an eruption, that includes creating protocols that will ensure we maximize what we learn from each eruption and disturbance event.

Such plans and protocols did not always exist. A widely cited 2018 Report of the National Academy of Sciences pointed out that there is a need for more effective coordination and stronger collaboration within the volcanological community in the United States.

In response, A Research Coordination Networkfollowed recently by a National Centerwas established to achieve these objectives. I had the pleasure of serving as one of the administrators and disciplinary leaders for both.

Through dedicated workshops, town halls at professional conferences and hands-on eruption simulation exercises, we discussed issues such as data sharing, communication tools and inclusion. The results are already showing in the current eruption response.

Within hours of Mauna Lava starting to erupt, more than 100 volcanologists have joined a Slack workspace, where they’re comparing predictions of flow patterns, planning instrument deployments, and more. and analyzing the newly obtained observations. A small, predetermined advisory committee composed of academic and USGS members is facilitating communication between HVO and interested scientists.

This established and transparent communication channel ensures that HVO personnel are free to focus on the immediate needs of the ground response, while the data the rest of the community needs is collected in a coherent, secure and equitable manner. Is.

We will learn a lot from this eruption, not only about how lava flows behave or erupt, but also about ourselves as a scientific community. Both aspects are important to advancing our science and, ultimately, giving us a better understanding of how our wonderful planet works.

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