HomeOutdoorsNewsMauna Loa Erupts: Satellite Images Show Volcanic Ash and Gases Pouring Out of the Hawaii Volcano

Mauna Loa Erupts: Satellite Images Show Volcanic Ash and Gases Pouring Out of the Hawaii Volcano

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Late Sunday night (November 27), Hawaii residents were alerted to the eruption of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano. Thankfully, downhill communities were not threatened by the flood of lava. Local authorities, however, warned that a blanket of ashfall could soon cover parts of the island as winds in the area spread fine ash and volcanic gas.

The explosion of molten lava marked the first eruption of Mauna Loa since 1984. The effects of that event are well-documented. That said, we have even better records this time around, thanks to modern technology. Along with the countless photos and videos of the eruption, we also have an astonishing video from space.

In the satellite imagery captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-West satellite, you can clearly see the volcanic eruption, a monstrous plume of gas and ash suddenly covering a large portion of the Big Island.

The ancient volcano is thought to be around 1 million years old, predating humans’ arrival on the island by just a few years – only about 998,000 or so.

Experts Warn of Potential Risks Following Eruption of Mauna Loa

The summit of Mauna Loa towers over the lush landscape of Hawaii, stretching 13,000 feet into the sky. Instead of exploding outwardly, the current eruption is occurring inside Mauna Loa’s caldera, a crater formed when an eruption causes the inner walls of a volcano to collapse in on themselves. However, lava at the summit, Moku’āweoweo, can still be seen 30 miles away by residents in the town of Kona.

“Based on past events, the early stages of a Mauna Loa eruption can be very dynamic. The location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly,” the United States Geological Survey (USGS) explained in a statement. “If the eruption remains in Moku’āweoweo, lava flows will most likely be confined within the caldera walls. However, if the eruptive vents migrate outside its walls, lava flows may move rapidly downslope.”

The USGS also warned that lava could eventually come down the volcano. If this happens, residents of neighboring towns need to be ready to evacuate. Though other volcanoes on the Big Island, such as Kilauea, are more active than Mauna Loa. The mammoth volcano, however, is more energetic and therefore poses a greater threat.

“The real hazards are related to eruption rates,” the USGS tweeted. “Mauna Loa tends to erupt at higher rates than Kilauea – and the reach of the rift zones, which can send flows into populated areas.”