Scientists say 2 volcanoes in Hawaii have stopped erupting

HONOLULU (AP) — U.S. scientists said Tuesday that two active volcanoes in Hawaii — one where lava destroyed hundreds of homes in 2018 and another where lava recently stalled before reaching a crucial Big Island highway – they stopped erupting.

“Kilauea is no longer erupting,” the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory said in a statement Tuesday, followed by a separate one that said, “Mauna Loa is no longer erupting.”

The warning levels for both volcanoes have been reduced from warning to warning.

Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano, began spewing molten rock on Nov. 27 after being quiet for 38 years, drawing onlookers to the incandescent spectacle and straining nerves among people who have experienced eruptions destructive.

It was Mauna Loa’s longest period of rest, said Ken Hon, the observatory’s lead scientist.

Lava watchers in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park enjoyed the rare added wonder of being able to see Mauna Loa’s smaller neighbor, Kilauea, erupt at the same time.

Kilauea had been erupting since September 2021. A 2018 Kilauea eruption destroyed more than 700 residences.

Mauna Loa’s lava posed no threat to any community, but it was within 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) of a major highway connecting the east and west sides of the island.

Hon called the two-week show, which is a typical amount of time for Mauna Loa, “my favorite eruption.”

“It was a beautiful eruption, and a lot of people saw it, and it didn’t take away any major infrastructure and, more importantly, it didn’t affect anyone’s life,” he said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Talmadge Magno said a one-way path opened to handle traffic from lava-viewing crowds will close Thursday.

Magno and other county officials had warned that slow-moving lava could force the closure of Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. This has prompted motorists to brace themselves for the disruption of a closure that could add hours to journey times on alternative coastal routes.

“Whatever it is — luck, chance — this is probably the best situation we could ask for on Mauna Loa,” Magno said.

For Native Hawaiians, volcanic eruptions have deep cultural and spiritual significance. During the eruption of Mauna Loa, many Hawaiians took part in cultural traditions, such as singing, singing and dancing to honor Pele, the deity of volcanoes and fire, and leaving offerings known as “hookupu”.

The lava supply to a Mauna Loa fissure ceased on Saturday, the observatory said, and volcanic tremor and earthquakes associated with the eruption “have significantly diminished.”

“Glow spots can remain near the vent, along channels, and on the flow front for days or weeks as lava flows cool,” states the observatory’s activity summary. “However, eruptive activity is not expected to return based on past eruptive behavior.”

The lava supply to Kilauea’s Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake ceased on Friday, the observatory said, “Potential remains for this eruption to resume or the start of a new eruption at or near Kilauea’s summit.”

The observatory will continue to monitor the volcanoes for signs of renewed activity.

Despite definitive statements, Hon said there is typically a three-month “cool-down” period before scientists consider the eruption over.

But there hasn’t been any history of a Mauna Loa eruption stopping and restarting, he said: “So we’re pretty confident that this eruption actually stopped and probably ended.”

It wasn’t clear what connection there might be with volcanoes that stopped erupting around the same time. Both volcanoes can be viewed simultaneously from multiple points in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park near the Kilauea Caldera.

“So, Kilauea may already be declining, and Mauna Loa’s eruption may have caused enough physical changes to stop it, or it may just have been meant to stop on its own,” Hon said. “So we don’t have a really good answer for that right now.”

Scientists will look at the data to study the relationship between the two volcanoes, he said.

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