Sunday, 21 February 2010

The complexity of nature

On Wednesday evening I made a short hike to a lava bomb field a few hundred yards from our accommodations on Mauna Kea (HP). The deep fried chicken and fish weren't very appetising (or tasty) but I had to eat something. I decided to walk off the cholesterol.

At the summit we get a great view of nature but I've only tried once or twice to picture things from HP. It's a place to try and sleep between very long work days/nights and not much more.

So, how many things are in the picture?

1) To the extreme left the clouds are being blown into the saddle by the low-level trade winds but can't get too far because there's not enough moisture in the atmosphere.

2) The high level winds are different and opposite. Cirrus clouds can be seen to the south above Mauna Loa. They are being driven there by the jet stream from some impossibly powerful thunderstorms to the south. The storms are generated in the Inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and the tops of the massive cumulonimbus clouds are blown towards the islands.

3) Left to right - cinder cones mark volcanic eruptions in the last few thousand years. In fact the place I'm standing on to take the picture is strewn with lava bombs and was clearly a place to avoid in years past.

4) In the background - the Mauna Loa volcano and its summit to the far right. A few years ago all the indications pointed to a new eruption but in the end it didn't happen. It's fairly certain we're just buying time because Mauna Loa erupts every decade or so on average. It last erupted in 1984.

5) From about the middle of the picture to the left you can see some haze. That's vog or volcanic emissions from Kilauea. It tends not to get above the inversion layer which is why it looks like a band across Mauna Loa. On the odd occasion it can get to summit level, or 14,000 feet, but that's rare.

6) The vegetation in the foreground is at its limit. Behind me the so-called tree line begins. Although you can find the odd plant above this altitude the green plants are at the edge of their universe.

It's an amazing place.


Keera Ann Fox said...

Amazing is right! Thanks for the tour!

Andrew Cooper said...

I didn't know the lava bomb field was there. May take a walk up there Friday. Will be on the summit overnight to support an IF run, sleeping it off at HP the next day. A "morning" walk might be nice when I get up.

Tom said...

Keera - no problem! Sometimes I wish people would think a little more about everything that goes on around them (I know you're one of them!) - whether it's human or nature.

Andrew - It's worth a vist if you get the chance and of course it's very nearby, just a few hundred yards to the east of the HP dorms. One thing that surprised me was that just short of the ridge there was an area of black sand. It was my impression that black sand was caused by rapid cooling of molten lava by water so was a bit surprised to find some at 9,000 feet!

Still, now I know where to look to find a precious metal - perhaps even a diamond!


Keera Ann Fox said...

Thanks, Tom! Flattery will definitely get you - something. Let me know. :-) And it would be very cool if you found a diamond!

Big Island Papa said...

I find it interesting to see the lava bomb fields there, they actually look like the lava bomb fields west of Mt. Lassen in Northeastern California, and these fields actually are about a 60 mile radius around the mountain.

Where I live in Susanville is about 45 miles east of Lassen and the lava bomb field goes twenty miles farther.

To the west the lava bomb field goes almost all the way into Red Bluff, CA which is about 61 miles from Lassen.

I am so looking forward to all of the adventures on the Island...Talk soon.


Tom said...

Terry - I think that's the weirdest thing about this debris field and outcrop, it's so localised. I'd estimate it's about an acre, maybe a bit less. I've half a feeling it's man-made, perhaps everything was dropped off there when HP was first built in the first half of the last century, but then again it's a bit large for that.

The black sand that's there is a real mystery - don't think I've come across that anywhere else on the mountain.