Officials say the world’s largest volcano has erupted in Hawaii for the first time in nearly four decades.
The Mauna Loa volcano erupted at 11:30 p.m. local time Sunday (4:30 a.m. Monday), the US Geological Survey said. It was the first eruption since 1984, according to its Hawaiian Volcano Observatory daily update.
The eruption began at Moku’āweoweo, Mauna Loa’s summit caldera inside Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, as it upgraded the volcano’s alert level from “advisory” to “warning,” the agency said.
“At this time, lava flows are contained within the summit and do not threaten communities below,” the agency said in a news release. “Winds may carry volcanic gas and fine ash and Pele’s hair down,” it said, referring to a type of lava.
Residents at risk from Mauna Loa lava are advised to “review preparedness and consult Hawaii County Civil Defense information for further guidance.”
“Based on past events, the initial stages of a Mauna Loa eruption are likely to be very dynamic and the location and progression of lava flows may change rapidly,” the agency warned. If the eruption persists at Moku’āweoweo, it said, the lava flow will be mostly contained. “However, if eruptive vents migrate outside its walls, lava flows may move rapidly downward,” it said.
The latest eruption follows weeks of warnings by officials that recent earthquakes at the volcano’s summit could trigger an eruption and that residents of the Big Island should be prepared to evacuate, Hawaii’s NBC affiliate KHNL reported.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) previously said “elevated unrest” began in mid-September, with earthquakes increasing from 10 to 20 per day to 40 to 50 per day beneath the summit. That unrest prompted Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to close the summit backcountry until further notice, KHNL reported.
Ken Hahn of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the quake was caused by the mountain’s weight slowly sliding toward the ocean, KHNL reported.
In the weeks leading up to the eruption, residents in the towns of Pahala and Ocean View gathered in October to discuss their concerns about county officials’ plans in the event of an eruption, KHNL reported.
Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency held meetings across the island to help residents prepare for a possible emergency, the AP reported.
The volcano, which means “long mountain,” covers about half of the island, according to the USGS. Before its most recent eruption, it erupted 33 times beginning in 1843, making it one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It is one of six volcanoes in the state of Hawaii, according to the agency.
According to the USGS, half of the past eruptions have occurred in the summit area, which is about 55,700 feet above its base — and many have migrated from the summit to one of the fissure zones, creating lava flows that cover large areas of the volcano. Low slopes.
“Hawaiian lava flows rarely cause human casualties, but they can cause extensive damage by covering, burning, crushing, or starting secondary fires in anything in their paths,” the agency says. Sometimes erupts in coastal environments.”
When the northeast flank of the volcano erupted in 1984, residents had time to prepare because the eruption occurred on the “higher slope” and the lava took longer to travel toward the city of Hilo, located on the northeast side of the island and home to it. to Hilo International Airport — former Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, who was civil defense administrator at the time, told KHNL. The eruption lasted three weeks, according to the USGS.
Correction (Nov. 28, 2022, 9 a.m. EST): An earlier version of this article misstated when local residents gathered to discuss their concerns. It’s October, not this month.