The eruption of the world’s largest active volcano – Mauna Loa in Hawaii – may soon come to an end, according to the US Geological Survey.
Mauna Loa began erupting November 27, choreographing a spectacular display that sent rivers of molten rock gushing down its side and drawing crowds of spectators hoping to see the flowing lava in person.
The volcano’s flow has slowed in recent days, and its behavior suggests the eruption may soon stop, according to the USGS, though when that could happen is still unclear.
Though lava eruption from the last active fissure continues, the lava oozing down and the volcanic gas emissions have been greatly reduced.
“High eruption rates will not resume based on past eruptive behavior and current behavior suggests that the eruption may end soon,” USGS said in a news release Saturday. “However, an inflationary trend of Mauna Loa’s summit is accompanying the decreased activity and there is a small possibility that the eruption could continue at very low eruptive rates.”
“Most lava is confined to the vent in a small pond,” USGS added.
And while authorities once worried the lava would cross a major highway, the flow front in the Humu’ula Saddle region has stagnated 1.9 miles from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and is no longer a threat, according to USGS.
Considering the recent data, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reduced the volcano alert level from a warning to a watch.
Still, eruptions can be unpredictable and there’s “the uncertainty of continuing eruptive activity and the possibility of volcanic ash emissions,” USGS says.
“The significance of the reduced supply of lava is not yet clear; it is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely, but none of the 8 recorded eruptions from Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone returned to high eruption rates after those rates decreased significantly,” USGS previously said.
Earlier Saturday, David Phillips, deputy scientist-in-charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, described the slowing volcano activity.
“There is much less lava coming out. The lava channels below the fissure are mostly drained of lava at this point,” Phillips said during a briefing.
He noted the lava flow that was threatening the highway is no longer active.
In pictures: Mauna Loa volcano erupts in Hawaii
“That being said, it was a very large flow, it’s a large volume of lava which is sitting there. It’s still very hot inside, it will take some time to cool,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mauna Loa’s erupting sister volcano – Kilauea – has been erupting since last year. Lava from Kilauea is, however, confined to a small pond near the top, and not gushing down the side.
The two simultaneous eruptions created a rare dual-eruption event on the Big Island, according to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.