Hawaii's Mauna Loa Volcano Erupts After 38 Years

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Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano began erupting after 38 years (Credit: US Geological Survey/ Public Domain)

The world's largest active volcano began erupting for the first time in 38 years on November 27, 2022. Mauna Loa, located on Hawaii's Big Island, came alive at about 11:30 pm local time. It has been spewing out spectacular fountains of lava as high as 148 feet since. The river of molten lava is inching close to a major highway. But it currently poses no risk to nearby communities.

However, residents have been asked to limit outdoor activities in areas with high volcanic smog levels. Commonly known as vog, it is a form of air pollution created when sulfur dioxide and other pollutants emitted from volcanic activity interact chemically with atmospheric moisture, oxygen, dust, and sunlight. Vog can be particularly harmful to children, the elderly, and those with breathing conditions.

Thin strands of lava known as "Pele's hair" (Credit: NPS.gov/ Public Domain)

Also of concern is the spread of thin strands of lava known as "Pele's hair." Named after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire, they form when the gas bubbles in the lava burst and rapidly cool. The explosion of the bubbles stretches the molten lava into delicate fibers that float away and collect in low-lying areas. The hair-like volcanic glass strands can be dangerous.

"While fragile and brittle, they are also sharp. As tiny pieces of glass, they can become lodged in human skin and, much worse, eyes. Caution around the fibers is necessary to avoid injury from the slivers," Hawaiian Park Service officials said on their website.

Mauna Loa is the world's largest active volcano ( Credit: US Geological Survey/ Public Domain)

Mauna Loa means "long mountain" in Hawaiian. It is the world's largest active volcano. The current eruption is its 34th since record-keeping began in 1843. The massive volcano covers over 51 percent of the Big Island. It is larger than all the rest of the Hawaiian Islands combined! Mauna Loa stands about 30,000 feet tall. This is about 1,000 feet taller than the height of Mount Everest! However, only 13,000 feet of the volcano rises above sea level.

Mauna Loa's glorious eruption is drawing thousands of people to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Lucky visitors can also witness the glow from the nearby Kilauea volcano, which has been active since September 2021.

"This is a rare time where we have two eruptions happening simultaneously," Jessica Ferracane, a spokesperson for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, told CBS News. "To the people of Hawaii, this is a very sacred event that we are watching."

Resources: CNN.com, Hawaiinewsnow.com, cbsnews.com, nps.gov

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