The largest volcano in the world (By: Chong Hui Jane)

Introduction

Mauna Loa, or Long Mountain, is a large volcanic mountain that helped form the main island of Hawaii in the Hawaiian Islands of the Pacific Ocean. Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii. As the largest volcano in the world, Mauna Loa is a wonder of nature.

  • The largest volcano on earth is Mauna Loa on Hawai’i Big Island. It is a massive shieldvolcano constructed by countless lava flows. When measured from the base to the top, the pile of lavas measures more than 17,000 m (56,000 ft)!
  • You might think all volcanoes are cone-shaped mountains that erupt by exploding molten lava into the air. The Hawaiian volcanoes, including Mauna Loa, are different. The Hawaiian volcanoes are shield volcanoes that were formed by lava slowly spilling out from a crack or fissure in the earth’s crust. Because of this, shield volcanoes are wide with gently sloping sides, and their eruptions aren’t violent. Scientists believe Mauna Loa began to form over a million years ago when red hot lava spilt out from a crack in the ocean floor. The lava cooled and formed a raised area on the bottom of the ocean. This process continued over thousands of years until a sea mount or underwater mountain was formed. Eventually, the mountain became tall enough to rise above the surface of the ocean and become an island.
  • When measured from the sea floor, Mauna Loa’s height is still more than 9,000 m, thus it is also the highest mountain on earth. Mauna Loa in fact is so heavy, that its weight has bent the oceanic crust under the volcano several kilometers downwards into the mantle.
  • Mauna Loa is one of the Earth’s most active volcanoes, with 33 well-documented eruptions in historic times since 1843. Its last eruption was in 1984 and since 2004, Mauna Loa is showing increasing signs of a possible awakening in a not-too-distant future.

Mauna Loa's flat silouette rising above the clouds.

Eruption History

Mauna Loa is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, meaning it erupts frequently. According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843. The last time Mauna Loa erupted was in March of 1984. Volcanologists, scientists who study volcanoes, carefully watch Mauna Loa for signs of volcanic activity. They also study the mountain to determine what path the lava flow might follow so they can issue specific warnings in case of another eruption.

Size

Mauna Loa is a long, wide mountain, shaped somewhat like a warrior’s shield. According to the Hawaii Center for Volcanology, Mauna Loa is 60 miles long, 30 miles wide and rises 13,680 feet above sea level. However, much of Mauna Loa’s true height is masked by the sea. Mauna Loa’s long, sloping flanks or sides descend to the ocean floor more than 16,000 feet below sea level. When measured from the ocean floor, Mauna Loa is actually more than 30,000 feet tall, making it slightly taller than Mt. Everest.

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