Image: Mauna Loa (Hawaii).
Aerial view on November 29 of lava fountains during the 2022 eruption. Credit: This image is in the public domain.
Mauna Loa is a massive volcano located on the island of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.
Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth in terms of volume and surface area. It rises to an altitude of 4,169 meters above sea level and its base is approximately 5,000 meters deep below sea level. The summit of Mauna Loa is marked by a large crater called Moku‘āweoweo, meaning “Island of Plenty” in Hawaiian, which is approximately 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) in diameter.
Mauna Loa is a shield-type volcano (characteristic gently sloping shield shape), characterized by effusive eruptions that produce fluid lava flows. This leads to the formation of lava flows that can travel great distances before solidifying.
The lava emitted by Mauna Loa is primarily basaltic, meaning it is rich in silica and low in gas. This contributes to the fluidity of the lava, favoring the formation of large areas of lava flows.
Mauna Loa is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. It experienced its last major eruption in 1984, although minor eruptions have occurred since then. Its eruptions can last several weeks or even months, with periods of intense activity alternating with calmer phases. Mauna Loa is so large that its surface area, 5,271 km², represents more than half the surface of the island of Hawaii. The eruptions of Mauna Loa reshaped the landscape of the island of Hawaii, creating new mineral-rich soils suitable for vegetation growth.
Due to its size and continued seismic activity, earthquakes are frequently recorded in the region, reflecting the movement of magma beneath the surface. It is an active volcano, which continues to grow. It rises about 10 cm per year.