© 2024 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
HPR's spring membership campaign is underway! Support the reporting, storytelling and music you depend on. Donate now

As it happened: Maunaloa's volcanic eruption

Published November 28, 2022 at 6:00 AM HST
People watch lava from the Maunaloa volcano on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi.
Gregory Bull
/
AP
People watch lava from the Maunaloa volcano on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi.

This coverage has now concluded. Check back here for a timeline of Maunaloa's eruption as it happened.

Summary of Maunaloa's 2022 eruption:

  • Maunaloa, one of Hawaiʻi Island's five volcanoes, began erupting on Nov. 27 after remaining inactive for 38 years.
  • Emergency teams set up two shelters for the community, both of which were eventually closed after being deemed unnecessary.
  • USGS predicted a "very high probability" that lava would cross the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road, on Nov. 30.
  • As visitors flocked to the island to view the eruption, a Traffic Hazard Mitigation Route was created and served over 16,000 vehicles.
  • Hawaiʻi National Guard deployed 20 members to control increases in traffic.
  • Lava flow weakened on Dec. 8, and lessened the chances of crossing Saddle Road.
  • Officials announced Maunaloa, and its neighbor volcano Kīlauea, both inactive on Dec. 13.

Maunaloa and Kīlauea are no longer erupting

Posted December 13, 2022 at 9:16 AM HST
USGS announces that Maunaloa has stopped erupting on Dec. 13, 2022.
USGS Volcanoes
/
Twitter
USGS announces that Maunaloa has stopped erupting on Dec. 13, 2022.

8:45 a.m. - USGS reports that Maunaloa and Kīlauea have stopped erupting as of Tuesday.

Kīlauea, an active shield volcano on Hawaiʻi Island's southeast shore, has been erupting since September 2021. It is considered a neighbor to Maunaloa, about 20 miles apart.

Scientists and viewers alike watched closely as Kīlauea and Maunaloa erupted simultaneously over the past few weeks, a phenomenon that hasn't happened since 1984.

The alert levels for both volcanoes have been changed from 'watch' to 'advisory' with the recent update.

"Eruptive activity is not expected to return based on past eruptive behavior," stated USGS in their daily update this morning.

Click here to read more.

Threat lessens for cross-highway lava flow; Volcano alert level decreases

Posted December 12, 2022 at 9:50 AM HST
As of 7:00 a.m. on Dec. 12, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists observed only residual incandescence and no lava movement in the Fissure 3 vent on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa. The channels below the vent appear drained of lava and no longer feed the main flow front.
F. Trusdell
/
USGS
As of 7:00 a.m. on Dec. 12, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists observed only residual incandescence and no lava movement in the Fissure 3 vent on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa. The channels below the vent appear drained of lava and no longer feed the main flow front.

9:35 a.m. - No new lava has been reported by geologists, but USGS said the Northeast Rift Zone may still be active at Fissure 3.

The main flow that was aimed to cross Saddle Road has almost completely ceased movement, posing no further threat to the community.

Air quality has begun to improve since the sulfur dioxide emission rate reduced this morning, according to USGS.

"It is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely, but none of the eight recorded eruptions from Maunaloa’s Northeast Rift Zone returned to high eruption rates after those rates decreased significantly," said USGS in a statement Monday.

Over the past few days, the volcano alert level was decreased to: 'Watch.'

Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency has reported conditions on Maunaloa being 'blustery' in the saddle this morning, with intermittent rain and wind.

Saddle Road

Lava flow toward Saddle Road stalls

Posted December 8, 2022 at 12:35 PM HST
In this aerial image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, fissure 3 is seen erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. The world's largest volcano continues to erupt but scientists say lava is no longer feeding the flow front that has been creeping toward a crucial highway. That means the flow isn't advancing and is no longer an imminent threat to the road that connects the east and west sides of the Big Island. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
AP
/
US Geological Survey
In this aerial image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, fissure 3 is seen erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. The world's largest volcano continues to erupt but scientists say lava is no longer feeding the flow front that has been creeping toward a crucial highway. That means the flow isn't advancing and is no longer an imminent threat to the road that connects the east and west sides of the Big Island. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Lava is no longer an imminent threat to the main highway across the Big Island, scientists said Thursday, a development that was a welcome reprieve for motorists who depend on the road.

Maunaloa was still erupting Thursday morning, but the lava that was feeding the flow heading toward the crucial road has been cut off, likely because of a reduced production rate, said David Phillips, deputy scientist-in-charge at U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Lava from Maunaloa was 1.76 miles from Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or Daniel K. Inouye Highway, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Click here to read more.

Interview

Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Mitch Roth asks for respect from visitors of Maunaloa

Posted December 7, 2022 at 1:35 PM HST
The Conversation: Mayor Mitch Roth speaks to HPR's Catherine Cruz on Dec. 7, 2022
Listen to the full interview here:
Illona Ilae, a Native Hawaiian from Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi, leaves an offering in front an alter below the Maunaloa volcano as it erupts Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi. Glowing lava from the world's largest volcano is a sight to behold, but for many Native Hawaiians, Maunaloa's eruption is a time to pray, make offerings and honor both the natural and spiritual worlds.

The Maunaloa eruption has made Hawaiʻi a global celebrity once again, but Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Mitch Roth says some people are being disrespectful of the lava flow.

Roth says officials have had to deal with hikers trying to trespass into prohibited areas, including some who brought marshmallows to roast by the lava.

"A lot of people consider Madame Pele a part of their family," Roth says. He adds that it is 'disrespectful' to the land, culture and community when people leave trash in the area.

"If we have people that are breaking the rules and going out there, that may be something that causes us to close the road a lot sooner," Roth says.

Additionally, the recent update of the lava path branching offand heading east could possibly be good, suggests Roth.

"So it's like the lava, pardon the pun, it's a very fluid situation that we have out here."

He says that he is even more proud of the work done to get the Traffic Hazard Mitigation Road up and running within a day. The road provides volcano viewers with the opportunity to safely see the eruption by pulling over to the side of the road.

"We're planning for the worst and hoping for the best."

Lava flow branches off original path; Weather advisory for Hawaiʻi Island

Posted December 7, 2022 at 9:25 AM HST
Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency
/
Twitter
Maunaloa's lava from Fissure 3 breaks off east of the main track.

9:23 a.m. - Scientists find that lava spewing from Fissure 3 now has a small split off the main track heading east, according to the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency.

With the 'breakout' flow, there continues to be no threat to the community, said HEMA.

3:48 a.m. - Hawaiʻi Island is on a weather watch as gusty wind and rain conditions pick up.

Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency issued a 'Gale Watch' this morning, meaning that winds could reach about 40 mph. The watch is set to end Saturday at 6:00 a.m.

Fissure 3 of Maunaloa continues to slowly supply lava towards Saddle Road. The road remains open in both directions, while the lava is now 1.8 miles away.

Hawaiʻi National Guard deployed; Fissure 3 active, but slow

Posted December 6, 2022 at 10:22 AM HST
Aerial image of Fissure 3 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa, at an elevation of approximately 11,500 feet above sea level.
USGS
Aerial image of Fissure 3 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa, at an elevation of approximately 11,500 feet above sea level.

9:30 a.m. - Fissure 3 remains active, producing lava that is slowly creeping towards Saddle Road at a rate of 68 feet per hour — which is half the rate that it was going on Monday. USGS reports that the lava is less than 2 miles from the road and has slowed down significantly.

Officials said that the slowdown doesn't mean the eruption is coming to a close, since they are still seeing high rates of effusion from Fissure 3.

A spokesperson from the Pohakuloa Training Area said in a meeting Tuesday morning that approximately 14,000 cars have traversed the viewing route since its opening.

Following an announcement via Twitter on Monday, 20 Hawaiʻi National Guard service members have been activated to help with traffic mitigation.

Mitigation route temporarily closes; Volcano aviation color code reduces

Posted December 4, 2022 at 12:40 AM HST

12:34 p.m. - The Hawaiʻi County Traffic Mitigation Route that was being used to control visitor traffic for the volcano has closed temporarily, according to the U.S. Army.

Officials said that an unexploded ordinance, or a UXO, was spotted near Saddle Road, prompting the quick closure.

DLNR reported that many people still continued to trespass into the closed area and they are now warning people to stay out of the lava zone completely. They said that violators can be cited or arrested.

Earlier today, USGS reduced the aviation code color from 'red' to 'orange,' as the flow slows down. They say that the threat of volcanic ash in the atmosphere has decreased, allowing for the reduced code.

Fissure 3's lava continues towards Saddle Road, yet has slowed and thickened substantially.

Fissures 1 and 2 no longer active; HI-EMA prepares for aftermath

Posted December 2, 2022 at 12:45 PM HST

12:40 p.m. - The Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency has announced they the creation of a four-person emergency response team to focus on the actions and repercussions of Maunaloa's eruption.

Administrator of HI-EMA Luke Meyers said that while lava is moving very slowly, he feels that it is still a hazard with "huge destructive potential."

"Cutting the highway or other critical infrastructure could affect economic activity, increase commute times, complicate delivery of goods and services, or a whole host of other potential consequences," Meyers said.

Taken from the intersection of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the old saddle road, USGS scientists take laser rangefinder measurements of the main flow front of fissure 3 from Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone eruption to determine where it is relative to the highway.
J. Ball
/
USGS
Taken from the intersection of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the old saddle road, USGS scientists take laser rangefinder measurements of the main flow front of fissure 3 from Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone eruption to determine where it is relative to the highway.

9:52 a.m. - Lava has slowed significantly and continues to be monitored. USGS reports that no communities are currently at risk from the lava, although air quality remains poor.

USGS said Fissure 3 is feeding the lava down the slope of the volcano. Fissure 4 was observed to see little eruptive activity, whereas Fissures 1 and 2 are no longer active.

Lava continues to travel north and is about 2.7 miles from Saddle Road.

Flow has slowed; Traffic mitigation in place

Posted December 1, 2022 at 11:35 AM HST

11:33 a.m. - A one-way traffic hazard mitigation route has been created to help with crowding around Maunaloa.

The entrance is located across the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area. Drivers can look for signage, barricades and safety officers. Commercial vehicles are prohibited from entering the route.

"Our teams have worked tirelessly to keep the community safe through this eruption, and through the creation of the traffic hazard mitigation route, we believe that there will be significantly less risk to our community," Mayor Mitch Roth said in a press release Thursday.

Additionally, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife states that all hunting has been closed in Unit 'A' of the Maunakea Forest Reserve and Game Management Area — south of Saddle Road and across from Gil Kahele Rec. Area.

An overflow of cars sit in a parking lot near the Maunaloa volcano as it erupts Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi.
Gregory Bull/AP
/
AP
An overflow of cars sit in a parking lot near the Maunaloa volcano as it erupts Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi.

9:09 a.m. - USGS reports that lava flow has decreased significantly and is now expected to reach the previously endangered Saddle Road in about a week.

Two fissures, or volcanic vents, are still active — with Fissure 3 releasing most of the lava. USGS said that they do not expect any 'eruptive activity' outside of the Northeast Rift Zone.

Hawaiʻi Island mayor issues second emergency rule after automobile incident

Posted November 30, 2022 at 5:40 PM HST

5:42 p.m. - Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Mitch Roth issues another emergency rule after six patients were reportedly injured in an automobile incident on Saddle Road Wednesday.

The emergency rule prohibits parking starting at the 16-mile marker and ending at the intersection of Saddle Road and Highway 190.

“Our Emergency Rule number two is again an effort to respond to the increased dangers along the roadway that have become apparent as the eruption along Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone continues,” said Roth in a press release.

To view the full press release, click here.

USGS briefing: "Very high probability" that lava will reach Saddle Road

Posted November 30, 2022 at 10:45 AM HST
Car travel down Saddle Road near the Maunaloa eruption, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi. Despite local authorities enforcing a no parking zone in the area near the eruption site, many spectators are flooding the area and illegally parking on the side of the highway.
Marco Garcia/AP
/
FR132414 AP
Car travel down Saddle Road near the Maunaloa eruption, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi. Despite local authorities enforcing a no parking zone in the area near the eruption site, many spectators are flooding the area and illegally parking on the side of the highway.

10:05 a.m. - USGS holds a media briefing on the current state of Maunaloa.

Ken Hon, the Scientist-in-Charge at the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said that it is very likely the lava will reach the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, or Saddle Road. He estimates that the fastest it could arrive is two days.

"It's very high probability that this lava flow, if it continues, will definitely reach the road," Han said.

Han reported that there is still one principle lava flow fed from Fissure 3 on the Northeast Rift Zone.

Lava has reached the bottom of the steep part of Maunaloa and is moving into the flatter saddle area, where it is expected to now slow down.

The flow is about 3.6 miles from Saddle Road, according to Han. Overnight, the seismicity quieted significantly on the Northeast Rift Zone.

As the flow gets closer to Saddle Road, people should opt to take the alternative coastal roads around the island, Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency's Talmadge Magno said.

Maunaloa continues to emit significant amounts of volcanic gas, sulfur dioxide and Pele's hair, which are thin glass fibers. Jessica Ferracane from the National Park Service urges those seeking cleaner air to visit other parts of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park at this time.

"The park is huge. It's almost the size of a Oʻahu, so there's always usually a place in the park that you can find that has clean air," Ferracane said.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park remains open, but access to Maunaloa remains closed.

Visible gas plume, Emergency proclamation announced

Posted November 29, 2022 at 12:03 PM HST

12:02 p.m. - Gov. David Ige announces an emergency proclamation he put into place on Monday.

“I’m issuing this Emergency Proclamation now to allow responders to respond quickly or limit access, if necessary, as the eruption continues,” Ige said in his statement Tuesday.

Schools, businesses and flights to Hawaiʻi Island remain open and the governor encourages visitors to view the eruption from a distance.

Aerial photograph of the dominant fissure 3 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa, taken at approximately 8 a.m. HST November 29, 2022. Fissure 3 fountains were up to 25 meters this morning and the vent was feeding the main lava flow to the northeast.
M. Patrick
/
USGS
Aerial photograph of the dominant fissure 3 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Maunaloa, taken at approximately 8 a.m. HST November 29, 2022. Fissure 3 fountains were up to 25 meters this morning and the vent was feeding the main lava flow to the northeast.

4:23 p.m. - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that lava is still flowing from the Northeast Rift Zone. One of the fissures, or volcanic vents, has shown the longest lava flow yet and has crossed the Mauna Loa Weather Observatory Road, according to USGS.

The flow front was located approximately 4.5 miles from Saddle Road, a highway that stretches between Maunaloa and Maunakea at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

The Department of Transportation advises people to not park on Saddle Road to watch the eruption. Mayor Mitch Roth has issued an emergency rule stating the closure of parking between the 16-mile and 31-mile marker.

"The route is not meant to support high volumes of vehicles parking on the highway and its shoulders or pedestrians walking in the roadway," the department said in a press release.

No imminent threat to Southwestern rift; Vog advisory in place

Posted November 28, 2022 at 12:00 PM HST

11:59 a.m. - The American Lung Association of Hawaiʻi warns Hawaiʻi Island residents of vog, or volcanic ash, which can have serious impacts on those with asthma or pre-existing conditions.

"The lava, volcanic ash and vog from Mauna Loa can have a significant impact on lung health," said Pedro Haro, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawaiʻi, in a press release on Monday.

The organization advises residents to stay indoors, prepare to evacuate if directed, close car windows and vents when driving and ask for help if needed. For more safety tips, click here.

Northeast rift zone eruption of Maunaloa.
USGS
Northeast rift zone eruption of Maunaloa.

11:52 a.m. - Hawaiʻi Island mayor Mitch Roth releases a statement saying that there is no immediate danger to those living in the Southwestern Rift Zone at this time.

"We’ve been told that the lava is heading in the best possible direction, which is away from our communities. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and will be providing updates to the community regularly," Roth said in a press release on Monday.

Lava exits Maunaloa, shelters made available

Posted November 28, 2022 at 6:45 AM HST

6:30 a.m. - Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirms that lava has been seen on the northeast flank. The flank is not populated and does not currently pose as a threat to communities, according to authorities.

6:07 a.m. - The American Red Cross has opened several shelters across Hawaiʻi Island.

  • Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area – 75-5560 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740.
  • Ka’u District Gym Multi-Purpose Room – 96-1219 Kamani St, Pahala, HI 96777.

The Red Cross would like those coming to the shelters to bring the following: Medicine, important documentation and personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and sanitizer. Pets are also welcome. Click here for more information from the Red Cross.

5:30 a.m. - All Hawaiʻi Department of Education campuses on Hawaiʻi Island will be open. HIDOE continues to monitor the impacts of the eruption. Click here for updates from HIDOE.

Hawai’i Wing Civil Air Patrol aerial photographers take photos of Maunaloa on Nov. 28.
CAP
Hawai’i Wing Civil Air Patrol aerial photographers take photos of Maunaloa on Nov. 28.

2:45 a.m. - Hawai’i Wing Civil Air Patrol responded to a request from the Hawai’i Emergency Management Agency. A pilot flew a volcanologist and aerial photographer over the scene.

First signs of Maunaloa's eruption

Posted November 27, 2022 at 11:50 PM HST

11:30 p.m. - Maunaloa began to show signs of erupting, according to scientists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency. The eruption began in Moku‘āweoweo, the summit caldera of Maunaloa.

The lava is contained within the summit caldera at this point and shows no signs of imminent danger to citizens.

Maunaloa began showing signs of potential activity in September and has been monitored closely by scientists such as Hawaiian Volcano Observatory research geologist Frank Trusdell.

"I would say that right now the signs are pointing to the influx of magma into the volcano. Maunaloa is not a dead volcano. The recent seismicity is reflective of the ingress of magma into the reservoir," Trusdell told HPR's The Conversation in October.

Hawaiʻi Island also saw a series of earthquakes over the past months, including a magnitude 5.0 earthquake more recently.

"If I search back about 3,000 years, the eruption frequency is about one eruption every six years," Trusdell said. "When I say that it erupted once every six years, it's a time average... So it's very possible that we had a clustering of eruptions with longer repose times and then another cluster where Maunaloa will erupt frequently."

For more information on the initial signs of the eruption, click here.