Guest Videos: Getting Cosmic With Hawaiian Volcanoes

May 12, 2020, 4:10 p.m., Pacific: A Loihi update came in from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The full text is here. Excerpt, with emphasis and link added:


Earthquake activity increased Sunday and Monday in the vicinity of Lōʻihi seamount, the youngest Hawaiian volcano located approximately 35 km (21.7 mi) southeast of Pāhala, at a water depth of ~1 km (~3300 ft) below sea level. There is no indication that a submarine eruption has occurred and there are no significant hazards of concern to the Island of Hawaiʻi at this time.

. . .

This swarm may represent a brief magmatic intrusion or movement of magmatic fluids within the volcanic edifice. Although the swarm appears to have diminished in intensity, if earthquakes become shallower, it could lead to the beginning of a submarine eruption, similar to what occurred in 1996.

An eruption of Lōʻihi, if it were to occur, may cause partial draining of its summit magma chamber and summit collapse, as happened in 1996. Significant, sudden changes to the volcano’s surface could displace large volumes of ocean water, which, if large enough, might generate very small local tsunami waves . Earthquakes of magnitude 4 and above could occur if the swarm were to intensify and these may be felt on the Island of Hawaiʻi.

If an eruption or stronger earthquakes occur, very small tsunami waves may affect southeast shores of the Island of Hawaiʻi. Relatively low-energy, steam- and gas-driven explosions can occur at the depth of Lōʻihi, but with limited local effects on the volcano and surrounding ocean water.

Original post, December 29, 2019:

This post is really about Loihi seamount, which will probably some day be the newest Hawaiian island.

Where is Loihi?

Well, let’s just say that I couldn’t find any sunrise views from its peak and had to go with a bathymetric map for the image up above.

And why is NASA interested in it?

Yes, there are lots of ocean worlds out there. If any of them bear life, even on Pluto, it will probably be because of submarine volcanism like what we see at Loihi and elsewhere on good old planet Earth.

By practicing exploration techniques, and developing new ones here at home, we’re building skills that will eventually enable us to remotely explore the most likely places for extraterrestrial life in our solar system.

Featured image: Bathymetric map of Loihi Seamount by NOAA via Wikimedia

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