Mauna Loa eruption: world’s largest volcano erupts in Hawaii after a day of tremors in US state

The largest active shield volcano on Earth erupted into life on Sunday evening, moving Mauna Loa’s alert level to be moved to the highest possible

The world’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, erupted in Hawaii over the weekend but local emergency services have been quick to play down the threat it poses to those around the area. That doesn’t mean however there won’t be a danger to life and property though with the US Geological Service closely following the eruption.

The eruption occurred at 11:30pm PST (9:30am GMT) on Sunday evening however the flow of lava was contained inside the crater of the shield volcano. A warning was still put into effect for the area though due to ash falling from the eruption which can contaminate water supplies, kill vegetation and irritate the lungs but has since been lifted.

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The US Geological Service however is still cautious regarding the recent eruption, especially due to the number of recent earthquakes in the region, including more than a dozen reported tremors on Sunday. The alert level for Mauna Loa was raised from advisory to warning during the ensuing eruption.

“Based on past events, the early stages of a Mauna Loa eruption can be very dynamic and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly," the USGS said, warning that If the eruption moves beyond the crater of the volcano, lava flows could "move rapidly downslope."

Lava eruptions from Mauna Loa are silica-poor and very fluid, and they tend to be non-explosive, which poses the most risk to neighbouring villages rather than the spread of explosive volcanic rock and molten lava after the initial eruption.

As the population around Mauna Loa has increased over the years, so has the risk of a lava disaster, “which rarely present a risk to life, but they can be extremely destructive to infrastructure," Dr. Jessica Johnson, a British volcano geophysicist who has worked at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told the BBC.

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The volcano is one of five that form the Island of Hawaii and is situated inside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and rises 13,679ft above sea level while spanning an area of more than 2,000 sq miles (5,179 sq km). Though there have been no recorded fatalities from eruptions, villages were destroyed during volcanic events in 1926 and 1950. The last time Mauna Loa erupted was back in 1984.

Due to being an active volcano, Mauna Loa is one of 16 Decade Volcanoes, which the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) deem as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to densely populated areas.

What are the other 15 volcanoes on the Decade Volcanoes list?

Alongside Mauna Loa, the following volcanoes comprise the full list of the IAVCEI’s Decade Volcanoes program:

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Avachinsky - a stratovolcano in Russia that appears on the Decades Volcanoes list
  • Avachinsky-Koryaksky, Russia
  • Volcán de Colima, México
  • Galeras, Colombia
  • Mount Etna, Sicily
  • Mount Merapi, Indonesia
  • Mount Nyiragongo, DR Congo
  • Mount Rainier, USA
  • Mount Vesuvius, Italy
  • Mount Unzen, Japan
  • Sakurajima, Japan
  • Santa María, Guatemala
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Taal Volcano, Philippines
  • Teide, Spain
  • Ulawun, Papua New Guinea