After 38 years, Hawaii's Mauna Loa erupted on Sunday 27 November 2022 at 11:30 PM local time. The eruption quickly filled the summit caldera forcing lava to spill and flow outward in an east and west direction. While the exact timing was a surprise, the eruption was anticipated due to recently felt earthquakes. Lava flows east of the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory (MLSO) have destroyed parts of the access road to the observatory and knocked out all power to the site. MLSO is not near any lava flows and not in any immediate danger.
Over the first few hours the eruption seemed to go through the following noted phases:
- 11:30 pm–2:00 am, filling the summit caldera.
- 2:00–4:00 am, spilling some lava toward the island's west side ~12,000 ft. above South Kona/Captain Cook bay.
- 4:00–8:00 am, lava flowing toward Hilo but remaining above ~12,000 ft.
- 8:00 am, a pausing/reduction of flow.
On the evening of 29 November Ben Berkey noticed the power at the observatory had switched to the battery backup system known as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) indicating a power outage at the site. UPS provides power to the observatory for multiple hours but cannot sustain power for longer. Hawaii Electric confirmed that the lava flows had knocked out power to the Mauna Loa site as well as to other users. The significant lava flow has damaged or destroyed power lines as well as parts of the Mauna Loa access road. Prior to losing power, the MLSO sky web cam and the NOAA web cam were recording images from the site. The lava has continued flowing downward to an altitude of about 7,500 ft. The MLSO site is not in any immediate danger but has no power and no road access. Repairs to the road and power lines cannot begin until the lava flows have stopped. We anticipate MLSO to be closed for at least several weeks.
Unfortunately, eruptions in Hawaii can continue for weeks to months with periodic renewed activity and lava flows can be dynamic and unpredictable. Meanwhile, we are thankful that our staff, NOAA staff, and all other Mauna Loa personnel and local residents are safe.
We will continue to post updates on the situation on our MLSO home page.