Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano eruption continues: New aerial video shows lava edging closer to main highway

As of Monday morning, the lava from Fissure 3 was about 2.16 miles from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway as flows advanced at an average rate of about 25 feet per hour.

MAUNA LOA, Hawaii – New aerial video shared Sunday by the U.S. Geological Survey showed lava from an active fissure on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano creeping closer to one of the main highways that connects the cities of Hilo and Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, began erupting on Nov. 27 after remaining quiet for nearly 40 years.

The last time Mauna Loa erupted was in 1984, and when the eruption began more than a week ago, it ended the longest streak on record between eruptions.

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According to the USGS, one active fissure, Fissure 3, has been feeding lava flows downslope, with lava flowing to the north toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road).

Scientists said the lava flows have slowed down significantly over the past several days because they have reached relatively flatter ground around the rumbling mountain.

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As of Monday morning, the lava from Fissure 3 was about 2.16 miles from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway as flows advanced at an average rate of about 25 feet per hour.

However, the USGS noted there are many variables at play, and both the direction and timing of flow advances are expected to change over periods of hours to days. That makes it difficult to estimate when or if the lava flows will impact this main highway.

In fact, lava flow rates may be highly variable over the coming days and weeks because of the way the lava is situated on flat ground between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. According to the USGS, individual lobes may advance quickly and then stall, and additional breakouts could occur if lava channels get blocked upslope.

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In addition to the lava, the eruption of Mauna Loa is sending volcanic gas plumes high into the air before being blown to the west at high altitudes, generating vog (volcanic air pollution) in areas downwind of the volcano. Sulfur dioxide emission rates also remain elevated, contributing to poor air quality.

Pele's Hair has also been falling in the Humu'ula Saddle area downwind of Mauna Loa and has even been reported as far away as Laupāhoehoe after being transported by high winds. Pele's Hair refers to thin strands of volcanic glass fibers formed from gas amid explosions within the turbulent cauldron.

According to the USGS, tremors are continuing beneath Fissure 3, which indicates magma is still being supplied to this active fissure on Mauna Loa. Activity is likely to continue as long as those tremors persist.

Scientists said they don't anticipate eruptive activity outside the Northeast Rift Zone.

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Mauna Loa history

Since 1843, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times, averaging an eruption every five years. However, most eruptions before 1950 had an average frequency of 3.5 years. Since 1950, there have only been two eruptions – a summit eruption in 1975 and a rift eruption in 1984.

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