USGS is monitoring Mauna Loa closely. Here’s how their color-coded advisory system works

There are still no signs of an imminent eruption on Mauna Loa, but nearby communities are being warned to get ready.
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 5:04 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 27, 2022 at 4:57 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are still no signs of an imminent eruption on Mauna Loa, but nearby communities are being warned to get ready.

And Hawaii County has been putting out daily updates using an advisory system.

Seismic activity at the summit remains elevated.

Geologists say they detected about 20 small earthquakes Wednesday, all less than magnitude 3.

And a recent swarm of earthquakes prompted scientists to take a closer look.

“What really kicked us into a higher gear in terms of looking at Mauna Loa was in September,” said Mike Zoeller, geologist at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“We reached over 40 earthquakes a day for a couple weeks straight and 100 earthquakes on a couple of occasions.”

Similar to weather alerts, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey have their own alert system with two parts. The ground-based volcano alert system goes from normal, advisory, watch to warning.

The color coded aviation alerts are for the aviation sector which shows hazards from volcanic-ash emissions. They go from green, yellow, orange and red.

Geologists say these two alerts are usually in sync.

Right now, Mauna Loa is in the advisory level or yellow level since 2019. It means the volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background activity.

“That’s telling us that magma is migrating to shallower levels in the volcano slightly closer to the surface and not quite yet at the levels that would suggest an eruption is imminent yet,” said Zoeller.

“That’s why we have not moved in the orange or watch level yet.”

A watch or orange means an eruption is imminent or underway, but it poses limited hazards to aviation.

That’s the level Kilauea is in.

A warning or red means an eruption is imminent or underway with hazardous activity.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says its alert levels and color codes aren’t tied to a specific evacuation guidance. Those decisions are made by Civil Defense.

County civil defense is stressing residents should always be prepared.

“If it does threaten the community, the one that would be the soonest impacted because of the degree of slope and the proximity to the fissure is the Kau and South Kona district areas,” said Talmadge Magno, administrator of Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross says it’s monitoring the situation and is ready to mobilize in 24 hours if needed.

“We have resources on the island both manpower and actual deliverable items,” said Matthew Wells, of the American Red Cross.

A free community meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the Herkes Gym on Kamani Street in Pahala to discuss what’s happening with Mauna Loa and what the plan is if the world’s largest active volcano erupts.

Among the speakers are Talmadge Magno of Civil Defense and Ken Hon, the top scientist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.