Will the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii erupt soon?
Although an eruption isn’t imminent, officials are warning Hawaii residents to stay alert and get ready for an evacuation if the need presents itself.
Geologists have recognized increased activity from the volcano since September.
“We reached over 40 earthquakes a day for a couple weeks straight and 100 earthquakes on a couple of occasions,” Mike Zoeller, geologist at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told Hawaii News Now. On Wednesday, geologists detected 20 minor earthquakes, all less than magnitude 3.
Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano. If it erupts, it will take just a few hours for lava to reach nearby homes, The Associated Press reports.
“Not to panic everybody, but they have to be aware of that you live on the slopes of Mauna Loa. There’s a potential for some kind of lava disaster,” Talmadge Magno, the administrator for Hawaii County Civil Defense, told The Associated Press.
Geologists are not certain of an eruption, but Hawaii’s civil defense agency is educating residents of the Big Island about how to prepare for potential disaster, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Officials told residents to have bags prepared for an evacuation as well as a safe place to stay.
Mauna Loa makes up just over half of the island’s landmass, so an eruption would impact much of the island. Southwest lava vents could reach the Ocean View neighborhoods in just a few hours. Most neighborhoods have a longer reaction time — lava from the northeast could take days or weeks to reach residential areas, per The Associated Press.
When did Mauna Loa last erupt?
Mauna Loa’s most recent eruption was in March 1984. The lava moved 16 miles in four days. The lava stopped moving about 4 miles outside the large town of Hilo, according to the National Park Service.
This 38-year period since the 1984 eruption marks the longest silent period since the volcano’s first eruption in 1843. Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, averaging an eruption every five years, according to the United States Geographical Survey. Activity has slowed in recent decades — since 1950, the volcano has only erupted twice.