Mauna Loa Facts

Mauna Loa, meaning “Long Mountain” in Hawaiian, is Earth’s largest active volcano, standing 13,678 feet (4,169 meters) above sea level. When measured from its underwater base, it’s nearly twice as tall as Mount Everest. This volcanic marvel has been forming for over 700,000 years, last erupted in 1984 and hosts the Mauna Loa Observatory for climate research.

This shield volcano encompasses twelve long-dormant craters and two active vents, the latter of which have issued flows of lava within living memory. Indeed, Mauna Loa popularly marks the region as one of constant renewal: Its remarkable stature casts a captivating presence in this archipelago, both from its physical magnitude bearing down from above and historical associations based on years of eruption cycles.

Beyond such iconic effects, Mauna Loa is an undeniable force behind Hawai’i’s unique ecology – actively shaping the landscape and responsible for contributing many resources crucial to everyday life for local people.

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Mauna Loa Facts for Kids

  • The volcano is located in the Hawaiian Islands
  • Mauna Loa is the largest volcano in the world.
  • It is a shield volcano
  • It has erupted at least 34 times since 1843. 
  • Its last eruption was in 1984
  • It is considered active, and it is still producing lava.


Mauna Loa is set on the Big Island, one of Hawaii’s eight major islands. This volcanic giant dwells in the southeast region and is encompassed by other volcanic formations such as Kilauea and Mauna Kea.

The Big Island is the largest and most recent of all Hawaiian islands. This landmass was formed from ancient lava flows which fused naturally into one mighty island over multiple million years.

Size and Geological Features

Mauna Loa stands high above the Pacific Ocean, rising almost 13,680 feet above the surface. But just below that towering peak hides another world – a realm that falls nearly 16,400 feet into a basin carved by this massive mountain. The depth of Mauna Loa grants it an enormous total height of 56,000 feet from its base to its summit.

Its expansive flanks aren’t only monumental in size; they claim more than half of the area of Hawaii Island. Reproducing its mass would require all other Hawaiian isles combined, dwarfing them all with planet-spanning grandeur.

This volcano’s shape is delicate and majestic in equal measure, sculpted by a series of fluid lava flows. Its lava flows are renowned for their length and speed, some of the longest and fastest-moving on Earth. On Mauna Loa’s slopes, there are also calderas, cinder cones, and lava tubes to explore.

Geological History

Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, boasts a long and complicated geologic lifespan. Believed to have begun growing around 1 million years ago, it has cycled through growth and declines several times. In the last 175 years, the volcano has erupted thirty times: notably in 1843 and 1984.

Its eruptions have been directed by seismic activity and lava flow, reshaping its landscape over time. Today, Mauna Loa is part of an expansive shield formed by volcanism within Hawaii’s archipelago – an amazing sight to behold. Efforts are now underway to monitor its activities with advanced technology so that reliable forecasts can be made and risks minimized.

Table 1: Mauna Loa Liost of Eruptions

YearType of EruptionImpact
1843EffusiveCovered an area of 400 square miles
1852ExplosiveSent ash plume 18 miles into the air
1855EffusiveThe lava flow destroyed homes and farmland
1880ExplosiveAshfall reached 25 miles away
1899EffusiveThe lava flow destroyed a sugar plantation
1935ExplosiveAshfall reached 75 miles away
1942EffusiveThe lava flow destroyed roads and homes
1984EffusiveThe lava flow destroyed homes and farmland

Cultural Significance

Mauna Loa looms high in the sky, a proud reminder of its importance to Hawaiians. The name itself translates to ‘Long Mountain,’ echoing the reverence that culture has for this incredible natural landmark.

It is a site of mythic tales and legends. Here, Pele, the Hawaiian Volcano goddess, resides, granting protection and strength to native peoples. Stories handed down through generations flicker in its shadows and flames, showing us that both nature and culture are resolute forces here on Earth.

Mauna Loa’s beauty is worshipped, and its power is recognized. It’s a source of pride, a symbol of Hawaii’s historical yet ongoing journey; it stands as an example that recognizes our past while looking forward to more lasting bonds as we move into a shared future.

Impact on Environment and Communities

Standing tall on the island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa is an impressive geological feature that has significant benefits to its surrounding communities. Agricultural productivity is boosted by its incredibly fertile volcanic soil, while its slopes provide a haven for abundant plants and wildlife.

But Mauna Loa can also cause harm. In 1950, a lava flow left roads and houses in disarray, while in 1975 saw its violence escalate as it reached the outskirts of Hilo. Fears of future activity remain, and USGS scientists monitor the volcano closely to alert nearby communities to danger.

The big picture shows more than this local risk; the emissions of carbon dioxide released by Mauna Loa are a major contributor to global warming, with data collected helping experts track this damage.

Geothermal Energy

Mauna Loa offers unparalleled opportunities for geothermal energy. Its volcanic activity releases abundant heat that can be used to generate electricity with minimal disruption to the environment.

Hawaii has several geothermal power plants harnessing this natural resource and using it to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. These plants have been instrumental in elevating Hawaii’s renewable energy industry and providing clean, renewable energy to its citizens. This innovative approach is not only ecologically sound but also economically beneficial, paving the way for a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Impact on Astronomy

Mauna Loa’s summit is an astronomical hub. The Mauna Loa Observatory, perched atop the mountain, had a crucial role in advancing our knowledge of atmospheric conditions and climate change.

The elevation of Mauna Loa ensured the thinness of air there, resulting in clear skies ideal for study. The contributions made by the observatory helped us understand the Earth’s atmosphere and climate much better. Many discoveries were made that paved the way to tackling our future climatic woes.

Tourist Attractions

Discover majestic natural beauty at Mauna Loa. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the perfect place to explore and enjoy stunning views, trails, and more. Climb to the top of the volcano on the Mauna Loa Summit Trail and take in the incredible sights.

Delve into history and culture with a visit to nearby Hilo town. Or explore Punalu’u Beach Park and observe green sea turtles in their natural habitat. Enjoy a range of attractions offering something for everyone when you visit this popular tourist destination.

Volcano Hazards

Mauna Loa is a breathtakingly beautiful volcano, but it could also cause harm to nearby communities. Hazardous conditions, such as lava flows, toxic gasses, and ashfall, could arise with limited warning. Caution must be taken – visitors must follow the instructions of park rangers and maintain safety barriers and warning signs.

The US Geological Survey works hard to ensure that potential threats are minimized through close monitoring of the volcano. Scientists strive to advance our understanding of Mauna Loa’s behavior in order to gain better predictions. Even though exact forecasting remains elusive due to volcanic activity’s unpredictability, ongoing research provides hope for improved safety in the future.

Mauna Loa’s Impact on Climate Change

Mauna Loa sends 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere yearly. That’s 1% of the total global emissions from volcanoes on Earth. The gases released by eruptions have both cooling plus warming effects on the climate.

Sulfur dioxide may form sulfuric acid aerosols when combined with water vapor, which reflects sunlight and cools the Earth’s surface temperature. Research on Mauna Loa’s emissions has helped scientists refine their models to accurately predict how volcanic activity affects the climate.

Mauna Loa’s Impact on the Ocean

Mauna Loa is a significant force of nature with far-reaching consequences in the ocean. Its eruptions send carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, and their dissolution in the sea causes acidification. This, in turn, affects aquatic life considerably: coral reefs, shellfish, and countless creatures are impacted.

But there’s more – its underwater slopes host some remarkable ecosystems. A blend of corals, sponges, and myriad organisms serve as homes for many fish species and invertebrates, too, valuable habitats that can’t be overlooked.

The Future of Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa’s future remains unclear. But sensors, instruments, and drones keep an eye on seismic activity and ground deformation. They measure gas emissions, too, gauging when an eruption may come. All this is to provide warning to nearby communities of impending danger.

High-resolution images offer glimpses of the volcano’s surface, allowing tracking of changes over time. Knowledge gathered enables us to better predict Mauna Loa’s activity and potentially mitigate its hazardous effects.

Continuous study reveals more about this mysterious peak and offers hope that disruption can be minimized through prudent preparation. Ultimately, technology helps us maintain vigilance in the face of the unknown.

What Type of Volcano is Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, is an exemplary shield volcano. Its gently sloping sides, created by multiple lava flows, distinguish it from other volcano types and make it a geological marvel.


Mauna Loa is a powerful force of nature, at once beautiful and awe-inspiring. A record-setting volcano, it’s the world’s largest active one, and its significance affects more than just the Hawaiian Islands. Its geological history, cultural importance, and potential dangers add up to an experience that leaves both experts and everyday people in awe.

To understand the grandeur of Mauna Loa, it helps to be aware of its location, size, origin story, and potential risks. As an observant visitor or resident of Hawaii, you can appreciate why this natural wonder remains so valued in local culture. With sensible precautions taken for safety reasons, we can continue to learn from this amazing volcano.

Mauna Loa stands as a testament to the raw, primal energy at work on our planet. It commands respect with its sheer power while also providing unique chances to witness the beauty of nature up close. To truly appreciate its magnificence requires us to study and revere this living giant from afar.