Resilience Natural Disasters

Photos: Hawaii’s Mauna Loa erupts, causes fiery skies

See dramatic photos from around the Big Island.

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  • Due to the direction of the lava flow, there is no threat to any communities at this time.

  • Eruptions are dynamic and can change rapidly.

MAUNA LOA, Hawaii (KHON) — The world’s largest active volcano is erupting for the first time in nearly four decades, causing quite the show.

Residents across Kona shared photos and videos of the glow from Mauna Loa overnight with Nexstar’s KHON.

The eruption can even be seen from space. NOAA’s GOES satellite caught the images below over a four-hour time period.

Courtesy NOAA GOES Satellite

The U.S. Geological Survey has webcams that show the rift zones and summit of Mauna Loa. They are also releasing photos on their Twitter page.

Mauna Loa started erupting on Sunday just before midnight on Hawaii Island.

According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the lava exited the volcano summit through the northeast flank, an area that is not populated. Due to the direction of the lava flow, there is no threat to any communities at this time.

Rumbling small earthquakes had peaked in late September in a period that geologists have been referring to as elevated unrest. Mauna Loa’s activation was upgraded to a red warning Sunday night from the previous yellow color code.

Officials with the USGS and HVO are warning that “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 biggest cities on the island are Kailua-Kona to the west of the volcano, which has about 23,000 people, and Hilo to the east, with about 45,000. Officials were most worried about several subdivisions about 30 miles to the south of the volcano, which are home to about 5,000 people.

An eruption from the northeast could send lava toward the county seat of Hilo or other towns in East Hawaii but it could take the lava weeks or months to reach populated areas. It’s possible the eruption may later shift to a rift zone on the southwest flank. Lava emerging from this area could reach nearby communities in hours or days.

The average Mauna Loa eruption is not typically prolonged, lasting a couple of weeks, said Ken Hon, the scientist-in-charge at the HVO.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.