During 23 hours of fresh to strong winds in December 1975, air flowed rapidly and continuously out of a drill hole in the top of the summit cone of Mauna Kea volcano, Hawaii. Measurements made during this outflow indicate that the air entered the mountain dry and cold, but flowed out relatively wet and warm, resulting in an average latent- and sensible-heat loss from the cone interior of about 116 W · m−2. A sensitive vane anemometer, and thermistor and mercury-in-glass thermometers, were used to make these observations.
Published observations made during moderate winds in this and a second drill hole had revealed relatively low air and heat flow rates, alternating daily into as well as out of the cone, with outflow generally during the day and inflow largely at night. The diurnal differences in the flow direction suggested that the well-known, semidiurnal atmospheric-pressure changes were the main cause of the air “breathing” within the cone. The latent-heat outflow in moderate winds was about 4 W · m−2.
The continuous outflow observations presented here indicate that wind speed has a marked if not dominant effect on the airflow and heat flow from the Mauna Kea summit cones, and that the resulting cooling during one day of strong winds can equal that of ten or more days of lower winds. This intense local cooling may explain the long survival of permafrost on Mauna Kea, and underscores the potential of air-land interaction in altering the internal air pressure and heat and water distribution in the cinder cones of Mauna Kea and perhaps in other volcanoes as well.