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Out Of Mind » SOLAR & PLANETARY ALERTS & INFO » ATMOSPHERIC CHANGES » Hawaii’s big Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes may share underground magma chamber

Hawaii’s big Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes may share underground magma chamber

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Hawaii’s big Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes may share underground magma chamber

Posted on October 25, 2012

October 25, 2012 HAWAIIThe
past decade of eruptions of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano may have acted as a
pressure-relief valve for neighboring Mauna Loa, according to a new
model suggesting two of the planet’s biggest volcanoes connect deep
underground. Scientists know each of the two Hawaiian volcanoes has its
own plumbing —separate, shallow magma chambers. Such chambers are the
source of Kilauea’s rising lava lake, which is threatening to spill
over. But 50 miles (80 kilometers) down, in a part of the Earth’s mantle
layer called the asthenosphere, Mauna Loa and Kilauea are dynamically
coupled, said Helge Gonnermann, a professor at Rice University in
Houston, who is the lead author of a new study showing the link. “It’s
like groundwater in an aquifer or oil in an oil reservoir,” Gonnermann
told OurAmazingPlanet. “We know that there is melt that extends beneath
both volcanoes. Changes in pressure can be transmitted to both
volcanoes.” The Hawaiian Islands are hotspot volcanoes, formed as the
Pacific plate moves over a plume of hot magma in the mantle. Pressure
changes in the pooled magma in the mantle could rapidly affect both
volcanoes, the model indicates. The model helps explains some intriguing
observations: When one volcano inflates, the other starts to bulge
about six months later. At times, such as in 2005, both volcanoes
inflate at the same, GPS data show. The study suggests that Mauna Loa’s
and Kilauea’s opposing pattern — when one is active, the other is quiet —
occurs because eruptions at one volcano release pressure in the other.
The model suggests Mauna Loa, which produced its most recent blast in
1984, had accumulated enough magma for another eruption, but its
pressure was relieved by Kilauea’s heightened activity. “The hypothesis
coming out of this model is that if we hadn’t seen this increased
activity at Kilauea, then we would not have seen this pressure relief,”
Gonnermann said. The summit of Kilauea has recently started inflating,
giving the researchers a real-world test. “If Kilauea continues to
inflate like it is right now, and if our model holds water, we should
also see another period of inflation at Mauna Loa in about half a year,”
Gonnermann said. The scientists also hope to test the model in other
hotspot volcanoes, such as those of the Galapagos. -MSNBC

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