Dating recent lava flows
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In November 2011, he and a small team, including Stephen Smith, a cave researcher and chair of the Hawaii Speleological Survey, finally relocated one of only two known ice caves on Mauna Loa, simply called "Mauna Loa Ice Cave."From 2011 to 2014, their team made periodic visits to the remote cave to monitor temperature, humidity and ice levels.
By comparing their own data to a survey conducted in the late 1970s, they found a "significant volume of ice has been lost" over the last three decades, including the disappearance of a 2,800-square-foot ice floor, described as a "skating rink."In their study, published in the journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, the team writes there's been a trend of warming temperatures measured at nearby Mauna Loa Observatory, suggesting the retreat of ice at Mauna Loa Ice Cave "may be due to climate change."Mauna Loa Ice Cave and Arsia Cave -- a second ice cave, discovered by Smith in 2009 -- are both more than 11,000 feet up on the 13,680-foot-tall mountain's north flank.
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Norbert Schörghofer, a researcher and planetary scientist at the University of Hawaii, was studying permafrost on the Big Island's Mauna Kea when he first heard about ice caves on nearby Mauna Loa -- the world's largest active volcano.But the new pictures show that the planet itself was once far more alive than it is today – made up of flowing molten lava that spread across its surface.