An Urgent Message from Mauna Loa

Aug 8, 2021 | General Information

Mauna Loa, the world’s largest mountain and volcano, is about 600,000-1,000,000 years old. Although not erupting as frequently as its younger neighbor Kilauea, it is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Eruptions are usually huge and produce large rivers of lava that have repeatedly threatened the town of Hilo.

During the past 3,000 years, Mauna Loa has erupted with lava flows, on average, every 6 years. Since 1843, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times, averaging one eruption every 5 years. A few months ago the alert level for Mauna Loa was raised to yellow. This doesn’t mean that an eruption is imminent of even expected to occur in the near future. Perhaps the volcano is just preparing itself for its next eruption, which will come, sooner or later. Who knows?

With some evidence, the magna supply of Mauna Loa and it near neighbor, Kilauea, only 22 miles apart, may be the same. Perhaps they even compete for the same deep-seated supply of magna. What is not a matter of speculation, however, is that scientists sampling air for 60 years at the Mauna Loa Observatory have confirmed unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) — and incontrovertible evidence of climate change. Perhaps it’s merely a stretch of our imagination but Mauna Loa’s yellow alert may be trying to get our attention and tell us something really important.

Hawaii was just about to become a state when Charles Keeling laid the foundations for modern climate change research. Since then atop the volcano scientists have sampled the air at Mauna Loa Observatory and monitored carbon dioxide levels. Keeling’s discovery was the link between the global increase in fossil fuel emissions and CO2 levels. The chart showing these two trends became known as the Keeling Curve. Earlier in 2019 a new CO2 level record was set on Mauna Loa. CO2 levels reached 415 parts per million, the highest point in human history and 30 percent more than recordings in the 1960s.

The Mauna Loa Observatory has become part of a worldwide network run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scientists in this network are also taking daily air samples at stations in American Samoa, at the South Pole and the northernmost point of Alaska. From all of these data collection points, the disturbing story basically is the same: humans are increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere around the globe at a faster rate every year.

When gazing at Moana Loa, think about the urgent message spewing from the top of the volcano: drastically reduce CO2 emissions and keep global warming to well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit!