By Amir Vera, Holly Yan and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
The rare sight of two neighboring volcanoes erupting simultaneously became even more stunning Tuesday as new lava flows gushed down the slopes of Hawaii’s Big Island.
Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, erupted this week for the first time in 38 years. Its neighbor, Kilauea, which is also in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, has been erupting for more than a year.
On Tuesday, two new lava flows were seen flowing on Mauna Loa, the US Geological Survey said.
Mauna Loa’s eruption prompted Hawaii Governor David Ige to sign an emergency declaration on Tuesday. This allows the state director and emergency management administrator to manage actions such as issuing alerts and warnings, as well as facilitating mandatory evacuations where necessary.
Only 21 miles apart, Mauna Loa and Kilauea have not erupted together since 1984, when Mauna Loa last erupted.
Neither volcano threatens nearby homes or infrastructure, the national park said. But health officials have warned that air quality could be made worse by hazards such as vog or volcanic smog.
The rare double-eruption event is expected to draw an influx of visitors eager to see the molten flows, the national park said in a Facebook post.
Lava fountains 200 feet high erupted from Mauna Loa on Monday, the Geological Survey said. The eruption was concentrated in the northeast area of the Mauna Loa Rift, where lava is flowing from at least one fissure in the volcano, according to the geological survey.
Volcanic gas, fine ash and Pele’s hair (strands of volcanic glass) could be carried downwind, the agency said.
Officials are keeping a close eye on the site to monitor any developments.
“Based on past events, the early stages of an eruption at the Mauna Loa rift zone can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly,” the geological survey said in an update Monday.
Only one of three volcanic fissures that opened Monday on Mauna Loa was still spewing lava Tuesday morning, Hawaii emergency management said. A small, fourth fissure opened overnight and spewed a small amount of lava that knocked out both power and road access to the Mauna Loa Observatory facility, the agency said.
While there is no immediate risk to communities, the Hawaii National Guard is on standby and the State Emergency Management Agency has activated its emergency operations center, said Maj. Gen. Ken Hara, adjutant general of the state Department of Defense. Hawaii during a press conference.
Kilauea, a much smaller volcano located on the southeast side of Mauna Loa, has been erupting since September 2021, although its lava is confined to its crater, according to the US Geological Survey. When the incredibly active volcano erupted for months in 2018, it spewed lava into the Leilani Estates neighborhood, destroying more than 700 homes and displacing residents.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park remains open, but warns visitors hoping to witness the historic eruptions to be aware of the cultural significance the sites hold for Native Hawaiians.
“While an eruption is an exciting experience, remember that you are observing a sacred event. Kīlauea Volcano and Mauna Loa are wahi kapu (sacred landscapes) surrounded by places steeped in history,” the park website says.
The Mauna Loa eruption has prompted the closure of the Mauna Loa Forest Preserve and Kipuka ‘Ainahou Nēnē Sanctuary for at least 90 days, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DOFAW) announced Monday.
The division expressed concern that if the lava changes course and flows into the Puʻu Makaʻala Nature Reserve, years of land restoration work from previous eruptions could be destroyed.
The eruption disrupts critical climate equipment
The Mauna Loa eruption and its subsequent lava flow affect the road used to access the Mauna Loa Observatory.
It cut off power and access to the critical climate tool used to maintain the so-called “Keeling Curve,” which is the authoritative measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide and vital scientific evidence for the climate crisis.
The Keeling curve plot is composed of daily measurements of carbon dioxide concentration taken at Mauna Loa since 1958.
“It’s a big deal. This is the central record of our current understanding of the climate problem,” said Ralph Keeling, a geoscientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and the son of the creator of the Keeling Curve.
Researchers are now scrambling to find an alternative location for the equipment.
There have only been a few times when readings from the instrument have been unavailable, including in 1984 when they were interrupted by the last eruption of Mauna Loa. During that incident, researchers had to install a generator in the observatory to resume operations.
This time, Keeling said the situation is “much worse” and the timeline is unclear.
Volcanic ash affects air quality, flights
Ige, the state’s governor, warned Monday that winds could carry volcanic gas and ash and urged residents with respiratory sensitivities to take precautions to minimize exposure.
A “trace of less than a quarter inch” of ash fall could accumulate on parts of the island, the National Weather Service in Honolulu said Monday.
The Hawaii Department of Health issued an alert on Monday warning that residents and visitors should prepare for air quality impacts, saying the eruptions could cause “vog conditions, ash in the air and sulfur dioxide levels to increase and fluctuate in different areas of the state. .”
Susceptible groups, including children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions, should reduce outdoor activities that cause heavy breathing and reduce exposure by staying indoors and closing windows and doors if vog conditions develop, the Department of Health said. health.
Volcanic ash clouds can also pose a serious risk to aviation, reducing visibility, damaging flight controls, and ultimately causing jet engine failure.
Southwest Airlines halted operations at Hilo International on Monday due to the eruption, the airline said. It canceled five flights to and from Honolulu, Southwest said.
“Passengers flying to Hilo International Airport (ITO) or Keahole’s Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA) should check with their airline before heading to the airport due to volcanic activity at Mauna Loa,” according to a consultative from the State Transport Department.
The US Federal Aviation Administration is “closely monitoring the volcanic eruption and will issue an air traffic advisory once the size of the ash cloud is determined,” it said in a statement.
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CNN’s Rachel Ramirez, Chris Boyette, Monica Garrett, Joe Sutton, Dave Alsup, Dakin Andone and Hannah Sarisohn contributed to this report.