Scientists are warning residents of Hawaii’s Big Island to be prepared for a volcanic eruption after seeing an uptick in seismological activity near the summit of Mauna Loa over the past few months.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said that the “current unrest is most likely being driven by renewed input of magma 2–5 miles (3–8 km) beneath Mauna Loa’s summit.”
Officials began noticing an uptick in earthquakes in September.
“What really kicked us into a higher gear in terms of looking at Mauna Loa was in September,” Mike Zoeller, a geologist at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told KFVE. “We reached over 40 earthquakes a day for a couple weeks straight and 100 earthquakes on a couple of occasions.”
According to NBC News, Hawaii’s civil defense agency has been meeting with local residents and advising them to make emergency plans and to have a supply of food and water in case the volcano erupts.
Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano and makes up 51% of the Big Island’s landmass. If Mauna Loa does erupt, local residents would have just a few hours to flee before the lava reaches the homes closest to the volcano.
The last time Mauna Loa erupted was in 1984. There was no significant damage caused by that eruption because the lava flows were safely diverted away from populated areas by two natural levees.