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Connection between Hawaii volcanoes eyed

Oct. 24, 2012 at 4:54 PM   |   Comments

HOUSTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- A deep connection underground may be behind the enigmatic behavior of two of Earth's most notable volcanoes, Hawaii's Mauna Loa and Kilauea, researchers say.

The link about 50 miles beneath the Earth's surface in the upper mantle could account for Kilauea and Mauna Loa's competition for the same deep magma supply and their simultaneous "inflation," or bulging upward, during the past decade, scientists said.

A Rice University-led study offers an explanation for both the opposing long-term eruptive patterns at Mauna Loa and Kilauea -- when one is active the other is quiet -- as well as the episode in 2003-2007 when both were noticeably bulging due to the pressure of rising magma.

"We know both volcanoes are fed by the same hot spot, and over the past decade we've observed simultaneous inflation, which we interpret to be the consequence of increased pressure of the magma source that feeds them," Rice earth science Professor Helge Gonnermann said. "We also know there are subtle chemical differences in the lava that each erupts, which means each has its own plumbing that draws magma from different locations of this deep source."

Mauna Loa and Kilauea are located about 22 miles apart in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii. They are among the planet's most-studied and best-instrumented volcanoes.

"We plan to refine the model to include further details of the magma transport within each volcano and also explore how some known prehistoric events and some hypothetical events at one volcano might impact the other," University of Hawaii researcher James Foster said.

"This work should help improve our understanding of volcanic activity of each volcano."

Topics: James Foster
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