Mauna Loa Volcano Erupts for the First Time Since 1984

The world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa, has erupted once again after almost 40 years since it last made headlines. The eruption began late Sunday night, marking the onset of this momentous occasion. The volcano’s last eruption was in 1984; it had erupted after three years of steadily increased earthquake activity which serves as a warning sign to volcanic eruptions. This time around, the island’s residents had less time to prepare for the eruption, as earthquake activity (which often foreshadows the eruption) only increased a few months ago, as opposed to the prior’s years of activity. 

The volcanic activity continued until late Tuesday. So far, the lava flow has been contained to the summit near the eruption. This is good news because when it comes to erupting volcanoes, the two biggest concerns are lava flow, which, aside from taking people’s lives, can destroy cities and infrastructure, and air pollution, which is produced by the ash and sulfur dioxide emissions that are expelled by volcanoes during eruptions. 

In regards to this particular eruption, citizens have been receiving warnings for weeks now regarding this inevitable eruption, as there has been a recent swell in the levels of earthquakes and seismic activity. Residents were told to prepare for evacuation in case of a worst-case scenario. Beyond telling citizens to prepare for evacuation, authorities have also prepared to close off a nearby highway in case its path is obstructed by lava flow. Thankfully, because the lava flow so far has been contained to the summit, there has been minimal damage to the island’s infrastructure, with the worst report being an interference with access to a climate monitoring station. 

This particular eruption is interesting because, in addition to it coming from the world’s largest still-active volcano, and it has been nearly four decades since its last eruption, it is also occurring at the same time as its neighbor volcano, Kilauea’s eruption. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the largest lava fountains from Mauna Loa ranged between 131 and 164 feet high. While that’s very tall by our standards, it’s not Mount Vesuvius (the volcano that mummified Pompeii). By comparison, Mount Vesuvius’s volcanic ashes reached a peak of 33 kilometers!

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