Mauna Loa Volcano

Mauna Loa Volcano is one of five volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii and the largest volcano on earth when measured by volume and area. This active shield volcano, with magma bubbling and churning below the surface, rises more than 5 miles above the Pacific Ocean. Today, the volcano is primarily a backdrop to Hawaiian vacations, part of the amazing scenery that makes the island such a spectacular place to see. It’s also an important place for study of the earth’s atmosphere.

Mauno Loa Observatory

Mauno Loa Observatory
Mauno Loa Observatory

Budding scientists and those interested in learning more about the planet we all share will appreciate a visit to the Mauna Loa Observatory. The Earth System Research Laboratory operates on five locations throughout the Mauna Loa Volcano. The volcano’s high altitude and distance from man-made pollution makes this an ideal location for research. Visitors are welcome, as long as they made arrangements in advance of their visit. A small visitor center and exhibits are maintained in the administrative office. A guide will be happy to explain the atmospheric research that goes on atop the caldera, providing detailed measurements of climate change.

Mauna Loa Helicopter Tour

There are helicopter tours that take in most of the Big Island volcanoes. Most tours take about an hour, and some companies offer the option to tour with or without doors. An open cabin means unobstructed views better for taking photographs.

Eruption History

Eruption History
Eruption History

Eruptions are exceedingly rare with the Mauna Loa Volcano. The ancient Hawaiians experienced a few, and a handful of eruptions have been recorded since 1832. Between then and 1984, the massive volcano has erupted 49 times, none as destructive as legendary eruptions like Vesuvius or Krakatoa. Many of Mauna Loa’s eruptions cause earthquakes, but none caused long-term destruction or major damage.

Top image: LaurenBacon (flickr)

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