Hawaii volcano shoots lava fountains 60m high: USGS

Pressure has been building at Mauna Loa for years, the USGS said, and the eruption – which lit up the night sky – could be seen 72km away, in the west coast town of Kona.

While lava is not presently a risk to populations, scientists have said winds could carry volcanic gas and fine ash downslope, as well as Pele’s Hair – fine strands of volcanic glass formed when lava skeins cool quickly in the air.

Named after Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, the strands can be very sharp and pose potential danger to skin and eyes.

“LONG MOUNTAIN”

Authorities in Hawaii have not issued any evacuation orders, although the summit area and several roads in the region were closed, and two shelters have been opened as a precaution.

The largest volcano on Earth by volume, Mauna Loa, whose name means “Long Mountain”, is larger than the rest of the Hawaiian islands combined.

The volcano’s submarine flanks stretch for miles to an ocean floor that is in turn depressed by Mauna Loa’s great mass – making its summit about 17.7km above its base, according to the USGS.

One of six active volcanoes on the Hawaiian islands, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843.

Its most recent eruption, in 1984, lasted 22 days and produced lava flows reached to within about 6.4km of Hilo.

Kilauea, a volcano on the southeastern flank of Mauna Loa, erupted almost continuously between 1983 and 2019, and a minor eruption there has been ongoing for months.