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HomeTechnology & ScienceHawaii's Mauna Loa volcano erupts for 1st time in nearly 40 years

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano erupts for 1st time in nearly 40 years

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, has started to erupt, prompting volcanic ash and debris to fall nearby, authorities said Monday.

The eruption began late Sunday night in the summit caldera of the volcano on the Big Island, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. Early Monday, it said lava flows were contained within the summit area and weren’t threatening nearby communities.

The agency warned residents at risk from Mauna Loa lava flows to review their eruption preparations. Scientists had been on alert because of a recent spike in earthquakes at the summit of the volcano, which last erupted in 1984.

Portions of the Big Island were under an ashfall advisory issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, which said up to a quarter-inch (0.6 centimetres) of ash could accumulate in some areas.

“Based on past events, the early stages of a Mauna Loa eruption can be very dynamic and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly,” the USGS said.

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that together make up the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Mauna Loa, rising 4,169 metres above sea level, is the much larger neighbour to the Kilauea volcano, which erupted in a residential neighbourhood and destroyed 700 homes in 2018. Some of its slopes are much steeper than Kilauea’s, so when it erupts its lava can flow much faster.

During a 1950 eruption, the mountain’s lava travelled 24 kilometres to the ocean in less than three hours. In the eruption of 1984, lava flowed within eight kilometres of the city of Hilo.

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