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How Prepared For Disaster Are We? - The Year Of The Waikoloa Radial Eruption of Mauna Loa, and the Carrington Event I TAKE A LOOK BACK 160 YEARS AGO September is National Preparedness Month, so let us talk about one particular year where two major natural disasters overlapped on Hawaii Island; the 1859 radial eruption of Mauna Loa that reached the ocean at Waikoloa, and the September 2nd “Carrington Event”, a coronal mass ejection from the sun. Before starting, there is only some small chance of each of the events happening in a similar way again, and their alignment would be extremely unlikely, bordering on absurd probabilities. However, since we know both events took place it’s worth looking back and considering the implications if a similar series of events were to transpire today... Mauna Loa’s 1859 eruption & Waikoloa lava flow, Jan-Nov 1859: Prior to the modern development of Waikoloa, there was a somewhat peculiar eruption on the slopes of Mauna Loa. Starting with a typical summit eruption on January 23rd 1959, activity soon transitioned away from the summit but also away from the rift zones unlike the more traditional summit-flank eruption sequence. Instead, a radial vent opened 3.5 miles northwest of the summit, producing tremendous volumes of lava over the next 10 months. The lava flows traveled over 32 miles before reaching the coastline and inundating the coastal village of Wainanali`i and Kiholo 8 days after the eruption began, just south of where the Waikoloa Beach Resort is now built. After 300 days the eruption finally ended, being now remembered as one of the longest duration eruptions of Mauna Loa in modern history. (USGS-HVO, 2002) The oasis of ‘Anaeho‘omalu supported a significant population in the area in historic times, however the outlying dryer areas were mostly unpopulated. Travel in the Kona district at the time of the eruption was minimal contrasted with today. When lava flows eventually blocked all routes north out of Kona to Kohala it disrupted the local coastal community, but the damages were very localized. Similar flows today would have large implications for the economy island-wide during an eruption and continued into the aftermath, particularly if a large resort(s) were to be inundated with lava. While most of Waikoloa Village and Kailua-Kona are protected by topographical features to some degree from Mauna Loa, a large Mauna Loa eruption flowing west would jeopardize the Waikoloa Beach Resort at ‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay and compromise access routes wrapping around the island. Moreover, we have seen in Puna the difficulties and delays with reestablishing roadways following an eruption that cuts off a highway. Roughly one year has transpired after the eruption ended in 2018 and the re-paving of the inundated Highway 132 covered in the lava flows from ‘Fissure 8’. A hit to the local economy would be immediate and severe, as all of the west side of the island would be disrupted. Then if lava were to inundate hotels spread along the Waikoloa coastline the economic hit would be magnitudes more severe. 1859 was a special, less usual type of Mauna Loa eruption: a radial eruption. Experts have identified forty-four radial vent eruptions on the northern and western flanks of Mauna Loa in the geological record, compared to countless rift zone and summit eruptions (Dorsey, et. al, 2006). Radial eruptions similar to 1859 are thought to be associated with periods of high magma supply and activity, which is not the current situation on Mauna Loa (Riker, et. al., 2009). Looking at lava flows that reached Kiholo in the last 1,000 years, there is a 33% chance of one flow per century reaching this coastal area, if including eruptions on Hualālai (USGS-HVO, 1997)... Hualālai is a topic for another paper. Carrington Event, Solar Storm of 1859, Sept 2nd, 1859: The strongest geomagnetic storm in modern history hit 160 years ago this week, happening while Mauna Loa was still erupting. A solar storm of charged particles from the sun caused by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) and associated solar flare broadsided the Earth and caused some worldwide issues, like telegraph stations shorting out and catching fire, according to Ed Cliver, physicist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (Lovett, 2011). The Carrington Event sent a huge cloud of plasma out of the sun, reaching earth roughly 18 hours after being witnessed by Astronomer Richard Carrington. "What Carrington saw was a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun," explains David Hathaway of NASA (Bell & Phillips, 2008). The powerful CME series hit Earth head-on, spawning multi-colored auroras (Northern Lights) seen as far south as Hawaii and the Bahamas (Phillips, 2014). Analysis done by Dartmouth University indicates the Carrington Event was the largest such event seen on Earth in the last 500 years, and represents a ‘prototypical worst-case solar event’ (Townsend, , 2003). Back in 1859, when the charged particles from the sun overwhelmed the Earth’s magnetic field and reached the surface it caused telegraphs worldwide to short out, starting widespread fires and shocking some operators at the telegraph stations (Klein, 2012). Today we have saturated ourselves in technology potentially susceptible to another CME. A direct hit from these charged particles from a Carrington-Event-Size CME to the Earth could wreak havoc with modern day technology, as in 1859 anything with a wire was jeopardized. Back in 1859 the only thing with infrastructure vulnerable was the telegraph network, and there was no telegraph network in Hawaii at that time (Farrington, 1902). Such a solar event today could be magnitudes worse in terms of potential impact, as technology has boomed exponentially in the last century and the world is significantly more interconnected now. Each technological device is potentially vulnerable to such a strong solar storm; satellite technology, communications infrastructure, and power-grids being the most vulnerable. Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics has stated that impacts from such a Carrington-Event-Size CME could cost $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years (Lovett, 2011). The sun primarily operates on an 11-year cycle of sunspot and solar flare activity, periods known as ‘solar minima’ and ‘solar maxima’. However, there are many unknowns regarding coronal mass ejections like that in 1859, and by and large our sun remains unpredictable. A solar storm three times smaller than 1859’s dropped the Canadian power grid, messed with satellites, and downed radio communication in 1989 (radio went down first, at the time the British suspected it was Russians jamming signals (Odenwald, 2017)). Extreme space weather, like that seen in 1859 and 1989, can happen even during a modest solar activity cycle such as the one presently underway (Baker, et. al., 2013). The most recent solar storm of note was recorded by NASA in 2012 and missed the Earth, but was a close call (Fox, 2012). The good news is that the most damaging wave from a CME takes roughly 20 hours to reach the earth, allowing for hasty shutdown procedures of power grids and the construction of DIY Faraday Cages to minimize impacts, and the storms last only a few hours. However, the entire planet can be affected to varying degrees during a large solar storm (Carter & Halford, 2015). Combining Disasters… A combination of natural disasters like 1859 could be devastating today, it’s truly difficult to fathom the range of implications on the ground if these two particular events were to occur again, especially a direct hit from a Carrington-Event-Size CME. In the modern age we have ample examples of disasters stacking and happening together. Just last year we saw Hurricane Lane at Category-5 speeds narrowly miss the Big Island but dropped massive amounts of rain, which passed by as a fire was burning on the slopes of Mauna Loa, all while Kīlauea was on the tail-end of the legendary 2018 eruption. Multiple disasters compound difficulties for first responders and management personnel, and are much harder to plan for. Global events like a Carrington-Event-Size CME are outside of the expected, and no real preparation exists. On the other hand, an eruption on Mauna Loa that reaches the coastline is a more frequent occurrence, with contingency plans discussed beforehand. However, responding to the combination of two local events, or a combination of simultaneous local and global events, becomes a significant issue. The connection between the volcanic activity on Mauna Loa and Kīlauea with large earthquakes and locally generated tsunamis is also well-established in Hawaii. In 1868, a Mauna Loa eruption accompanied a series of large earthquakes, estimated at M6.1, M7.0, and M7.9 by modern standards. The largest, M7.9 on the southern flank of Kīlauea would become known as the Great Ka‘ū Earthquake (USGS-HVO, 2014). It toppled stone structures, caused a mud-slide in Wood Valley which claimed the lives of 31 people just minutes after the quake struck, and finally also generated a localized 20ft tsunami which killed an additional 47 people near South Point. Earthquakes that trigger tsunamis from Chile or Alaska have a longer travel time and grant several hours of warning before making landfall, whereas locally generated tsunamis make landfall very quickly, from a few to tens of minutes after the quake. The series of large earthquakes in 1868 was then accompanied by an eruption transition to the lower Southwest Rift Zone, producing lava flows that would cross the modern day location Highway 11, near Hawaiian Oceanview Estates. All in all, with the range of known and expected natural disasters in modern times, it’s reasonable to expect that at some point multiple disasters will overlap. We should consider the eventuality of floods at the same time as eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis happening in tandem, or even rarer, possibly global events overshadowing other disasters that would themselves make headlines. Each scenario is different, and the complexities of potentially overlapping events is very difficult to adequately plan for. The knowledge of events that did transpire does help prepare for future events, yet it is much easier to acknowledge the voids in preparation than it is to fill them. The good news is experts are watching and monitoring for changes, USGS-HVO on Mauna Loa, and NASA on the solar storms, their work goes along with many citizen scientists and other experts from around the globe. Video from NASA, images of Mauna Loa From USGS. Map created using USGS data

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