Story at a glance

  • Kīlauea Volcano is the most active volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i and neighbors Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth.
  • An eruption at Kīlauea comes just as experts are warning locals to revisit eruption plans.
  • Experts are tracking increased seismic activity in the area and anticipating an eruption at Mauna Loa.

As neighboring Kīlauea erupts, scientists are warning that Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth, could be next. 

"The volcano continues to awaken from its slumber," said the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in March. "While an eruption of Mauna Loa is not imminent, now is the time to revisit personal eruption plans.”

 


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The volcano has erupted 33 times since the first "well-documented" eruption in 1843, with the most recent being in 1984, producing fast-moving lava flows that reached the island's coasts and threatened the city of Hilo. While the volcano is not currently erupting, the USGS has reported elevated rates of deformation and seismicity that suggest the magma system is evolving.

Meanwhile, nearly 9,800 feet below, lava is erupting from Kīlauea Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the region, but remains contained in Halemaʻumaʻu, a crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park that has been closed to the public since 2008. 

"High levels of volcanic gas are the primary hazard of concern regarding the ongoing activity at Kīlauea’s summit, with additional hazards from crater wall instability and rockfalls," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in an update on May 12. Volcanic smog has traveled downwind of Kīlauea, according to the agency, which warned residents to minimize their exposure.  


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Published on May 12, 2021