The Melting Ice Caves of Mauna Loa
Researchers with the University of Hawai‘i are studying the potential impact of climate change on melting ice on Mauna Loa.
In the 1970’s researchers documented two frozen lava tubes perched more than eleven-thousand feet above sea level. Scientists say the lava tubes could be between 750 and 1,500 years old - and the ice inside may contain clues to Hawai‘i’s past environmental conditions.
But researchers say the ice in these caves are melting- and the window for discovery is quickly closing. In the time since their discovery the 1.5 feet thick layer of ice inside the ‘Skating Rink” area has almost completely melted. Researchers also found the air temperature inside the cave would average around 32.3 degrees from November 2011 till 2013 and only dropping below freezing 37% of the time.
Norbert Schörghofer is a planetary scientist with UH’s Institute for Astronomy. He studies the amount of permafrost on Mauna Loa- measuring the rate of decline.
Schörghofer’s research will be published in the journal of Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine research.