Mauna Loa Erupts

Lava shoots up high above a fissure in the ground.

Mauna Loa erupting along the Northeast Rift Zone, taken at approximately 8 a.m. local time November 29, 2022. Fountains of lava were up to 82 feet.

During the night of November 27, the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years. Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano. An active volcano is one that is erupting or is likely to in the future.

A volcano is a place on earth’s surface where hot gasses and molten rock from deep inside the earth are released. Because temperatures inside the earth are so high, some rock is molten, or melted. Molten rock that is underground is called magma. When magma reaches the surface of the earth through a volcanic eruption it is called lava. Volcanic eruptions can be explosive or effusive depending on the type of volcano. In general, effusive eruptions are less dangerous because less gas is involved and explosions are smaller. Eruptions at Mauna Loa are mostly effusive with the last explosive eruption occurring in 1843.

In the current eruption, lava is flowing out of the northeast side of Mauna Loa. This is good because populated areas are not in immediate danger. The slope of Mauna Loa is also not as steep on the northeast side, so lava flows travel slower. However, there is a concern that lava could eventually reach and shutdown a key highway in the area. Other possible dangers include impacts to air quality due to volcanic ash and gasses. Additionally, there is always a chance that lava flows can shift, or new flows can be created.

Just a few miles from Mauna Loa, the smaller but more active Kilauea volcano is also erupting. Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, and in 2018 hundreds of homes were destroyed by its lava flows. Since then, the Kilauea eruption has been limited to the crater of the volcano. Volcanic eruptions are sacred events to many Hawaiians, and dual eruptions haven’t been seen since 1983.

Image credit:
©USGS/ZUMA Press/NewsCom


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