A critical observatory that measures carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air will pursue a major renovation and upgrade soon –but the catch is hot lava from a recent eruption needs to cool before engineers can tackle giving the NOAA facility it’s much needed overhaul. Air samples from NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii on the Big Island of Hawaii provide important greenhouse gas data for climate scientists around the world. However, access to the facility has been blocked since a volcanic eruption there in November/December of last year.
“Mauna Loa is a premier international research facility,” said Ariel Stein, acting director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory. “This project will honor our history as we upgrade our scientific facilities, make them energy-efficient and generate power on-site to reduce the risk of disruption. This will provide a more productive and effective research campus for NOAA and our scientific partners for decades to come.”
According to a statement released by NOAA this week, the redevelopment project will modernize the site’s aging infrastructure and renovate the historic Keeling building which sits just below the summit of Mauna Loa at an elevation of about 11,141 feet. Plans call for increased solar generation and installation of a battery power backup system to make the observatory more energy efficient and more resilient to future natural disasters. The project will increase the observatory’s scientific capabilities and create new opportunities for research collaboration. The ambitious project also calls for increased solar generation and the installation of a battery power backup system to make the observatory more energy efficient and more resilient to future natural disasters. The project will increase the observatory’s scientific capabilities and create new opportunities for research collaboration.
The world-famous observatory, which collects atmospheric CO2 data, was cut-off by lava flows from the 2023 Mauna Loa eruption last November and December. That eruption buried about 6,000 feet of the access road and electric poles under as much as 30 feet of lava. While the facility lost power, the campus itself was not threatened.
However, work to renovate the facility can’t occur in the immediate future; according to NOAA, it will be several months before the lava is cool enough for engineers to re-establish the roadway. “The timeline for renovation and facility upgrades will depend on when access to the road leading to the Mauna Loa facility is restored.,” NOAA’s statement read.