Where Is The Largest Active Volcano In The World?

Mount Koa in the background.
Mount Koa in the background.

An active volcano refers to a volcano whose time of eruption is unpredictable. So, they erupt anytime! Hot magma located under the surface of volcanic mountains characterizes active volcanoes. The most extensive active volcano in the world is Mauna Loa. It is 4,170 meters above sea level. The Mauna Loa contains the largest volume of volcano in the world. The amount of volcano is 70,000 km3. Mauna Loa covers half of the Island of Hawaii. It is a part of a chain of five volcanoes that make up the US state of Hawaii. Mauna Loa is a Hawaiian term for “Long Mountain.” The term encompasses both the extensive coverage and huge lava nature of the mountain. The shape of Mauna Loa resembles a shield.

Activities Of The Mauna Loa Lava

Mauna Loa has experienced 33 volcanic eruptions from the year 1843 to date. In fact, it is believed to have been erupting for about 700,000 years. Mauna Loa comprises of the largest shield volcano in the world. The volcano mostly consists of very fluid lava flows. The speeds of the volcanic eruptions at Mauna Loa are low and are usually non-explosive. However, due to the low viscosity of the lava, the eruptions occur at high speeds. The lava becomes very hot, being over 1000 degrees Celsius.

One of the most interesting volcanic eruptions at Mauna Loa was the 1942 eruption. The United States had not predicted such an occurrence even in its wildest imaginations. In 1942, the United States had finally joined the World War II after being on the fence while the war persisted. As if that was not enough, it had only been four months since the Pearl Harbor Attack. When the news of the volcanic eruptions reached the US government, it issued a gag order to the local media to keep the news from spreading to the world. Meanwhile, they tried to contain the eruption with no success. At some point when they feared that the lava flow would destroy the Ola’a flume, a primary water source, they threw bombs at it to redirect the flow of magma. Suffice to say, the bombs had minimal impact. The flow eventually ceased by itself.

The latest volcanic eruption occurred in March 24-April 15, 1984. The lava flow covered six kilometers of the Hilo area. It threatened to illuminate the city of Hawaii during the night, but its course was interrupted by two natural levees. Since the incident in 1984, the Mauna Loa volcano has been dominant.

The Mauna Loa Observatory Program

The lava released from beneath the surface of Mauna Loa is a very hot substance. Besides, the magma is also very slimy making it difficult for anyone to step on the mountain. Hence, there are more fires and threats to the safety of the Hawaiian population. As a result, the Mauna Loa Observatory exists to study the volcano from the atmosphere. Studies on Mauna Loa and other volcanic mountains in Hawaii are ongoing. Researchers are part of the Decade Volcanoes Program.


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