Eruption update: On January 5, 2023, Kīlauea resumed the summit eruption within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Read more about how to view the eruption here.
Maunaloa is the largest active volcano on our planet and covers half of the Island of Hawaiʻi. Since its first well-documented eruption in 1843, the volcano has erupted 34 times with intervals between eruptions ranging from months to decades. Now, for the first time since 1984, she erupted again between November 27 and December 10, 2022.
In the following article we give you a full catch-up on Maunaloa. In short:
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Mauna Loa Q&A + Official Resources
- Maunaloa Eruption Updates
- How to best view this eruption
- Maunaloa Eruption Images
- Mauna Loa History
- Why is everyone suddenly talking about Maunaloa?
- Map of previous Maunaloa eruptions
- The 1984 eruption of Maunaloa (almost covering Hilo)
But first: a teaser! This following compilation was made by 4 parties heavily involved with the reporting of the recent 2018 LERZ eruption. It consists of material provided by Andrew Hara, edited by Dane DuPont, with music by Ikaika Marzo, and with special thanks to Paradise Helicopters.
Questions and Answers: Mauna Loa
To get you started, here are some questions and answers about the current eruption that often come up:
Mauna Loa is no longer erupting. Lava supply to the fissure 3 vent on the Northeast Rift Zone ceased on December 10 and sulfur dioxide emissions have decreased to near pre-eruption background levels. You can read more about the recent eruption here.
The eruption is over and there is no need to change travel plans to any of the Hawaiian Islands at this time.
All lava that exited Maunaloa summit and was restricted to the unpopulated upper northeast flank. The northeast flank is not populated and does not pose a threat to any communities at this time.
To help you get up to speed on Mauna Loa, we recommend reading the extremely useful Mauna Loa FAQ published by the USGS. Topics include the current status of the volcano, how the Volcano Alert Level is determined, the hazards and consequences of an eruption, what the name Mauna Loa means, what scientists are doing to predict the next eruption, and much more!
We will be updating often, in the meantime the following resources are worth keeping an eye on:
- Mauna Loa webcams
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (eruption viewing page)
- USGS Mauna Loa updates
- Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency
- Active Civil Defense Alerts
- Hawaiʻi PODD videos and live streams.
- Our own lava viewing guide
- Mauna Loa FAQs
- Hawaiʻi Vog information dashboard
- County of Hawaiʻi lava viewing resources
Another good resource is the following eruption map which is frequently updated by a local citizen. You can use the toggles on the map to see historical flows (a good predictor for a future direction the flow might take), pictures, and more.
The Latest Mauna Loa Activity Updates
We list the most up-to-date official updates from the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency and the USGS below.
USGS Eruption Updates
The USGS provides daily updates on the status of the eruption. We try to keep as up-to-date as possible with what we show on this website but please have a look at the USGS website for the latest updates.
Latest USGS update (Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 07:17 AM HST)
Mauna Loa is no longer erupting. Lava supply to the fissure 3 vent on the Northeast Rift Zone ceased on December 10 and sulfur dioxide emissions have decreased to near pre-eruption background levels. Volcanic tremor and earthquakes associated with the eruption are greatly diminished.
Accordingly, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) is lowering the Volcano Alert Level for ground-based hazards from WATCH to ADVISORY and the Aviation Color Code from ORANGE to YELLOW.
Spots of incandescence may remain near the vent, along channels, and at the flow front for days or weeks as the lava flows cool. However, eruptive activity is not expected to return based on past eruptive behavior. Summit and Northeast Rift Zone inflation continues.
HVO continues to closely monitor Mauna Loa for signs of renewed activity. Should volcanic activity change significantly a new Volcanic Activity Notice will be issued immediately.
Road and Area closures
As lava continues to flow into the Northeast Rift zone from Mauna Loa’s summit caldera, the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) is closing additional recreation areas on the mountain.
- NO STOPPING OR PARKING ON DANIEL K. INOUYE HIGHWAY BETWEEN MILE MARKER 16 AND 31 – Hawai‘i County issued a supplemental emergency proclamation on November 28, 2022 at 9:25 p.m. stating that due to eruption activity and spectator interest creating road hazards on Daniel K. Inouye Highway (DKI), it is “prohibiting all vehicles from stopping and/or parking on Daniel K. Inouye Highway at any time between the sixteen mile marker (16MM) and the thirty-one mile marker (31 MM), except as permitted at designated parking lots.”
- MAUNALOA ROAD AND MAUNALOA TRAIL REMAIN CLOSED FROM KĪPUKAPUAULU (but see below for pedestrian access) – The main section of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park remains open. For notices from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, click here.
- Mauna Loa Road is open for to pedestrians and bicyclists up to the second cattle guard, about 4 ¼ miles up the road from Kīpukapuaulu intersection. On December 8th the park has increased access to pedestrians and bicyclists on Mauna Loa Road to the second cattle guard. No vehicles. (source)
- Unit J of the Kapāpala Game Management Area is closed until further notice. DOFAW Hawai‘i Island Branch Manager Steve Bergfeld said, “No one should be accessing Mauna Loa at this time. Our sole focus is on public safety, which depends on where lava ultimately flows.”
- The entire Mauna Loa Forest Reserve, a massive 50,000-acre area, is closed to the public. In addition, the Kīpuka ʻĀinahou Nēnē Sanctuary, ʻĀinapō Trail and cabin, and the Kapāpala Forest Reserve, are all closed for 90-days (starting November 28, 2022).
How to best see the Mauna Loa eruption
The 2022 Maunaloa eruption is over and there is no active lava visible on the surface. During nighttime spots of incandescence may remain near the vent, along channels, and at the flow front for days or weeks as the lava flows cool.
- See it from afar by webcam
- See it yourself from the roadside
Mauna Loa Eruption webcams
Many webcams were installed to track the November 2022 Maunaloa eruption, and you can still access them to see the eruption aftermath. The following are some of our favorites:
- University of Hilo 2.2 meter telescope (Live view, good overview of the flow as seen from Mauna Kea)
- M4CAM (Mauna Loa — Northeast Rift Zone Downrift View (ENE))
- M5CAM (Mauna Loa — Fissure 3 eruption, Northeast Rift Zone )
- M6CAM (Mauna Loa — Northeast Rift Zone Uprift View (WSW) )
- M7CAM (Mauna Loa — Northeast flank)
- M8CAM (Mauna Loa – Northeast Rift Zone Fissure 3 Eruption Live View)
- M9CAM (Mauna Loa – Fissure 3 flow approaching Saddle Road)
- MK2CAM (Mauna Loa’s Summit and Northeast Rift Zone from Mauna Kea)
Seeing the lava yourself
The 2022 Maunaloa eruption is over and there is no active lava visible on the surface. During nighttime spots of incandescence may remain near the vent, along channels, and at the flow front for days or weeks as the lava flows cool. If visible the lava viewing area on a stretch of old Saddle Road (see below) is a good to go.
The new parking/viewing area on old Saddle Road
A traffic hazard mitigation route (THMR) along the Daniel K. Inouye Highway was opened to help relieve growing safety concerns due to increased traffic as a result of the ongoing Maunaloa eruption.
- The one-way (eastbound) THMR utilizes the old Saddle Road with the entrance located directly across from the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area. The route spans 4.5 miles from the entryway to a junction point located just before Puʻuhuluhulu.
- The THMR is for passenger vehicles only. Commercial vehicles are prohibited from entering the THMR. Parking will only be allowed on the right side of the THMR for lava viewing and no vehicle can remain in the area for more than 90 minutes.
- Motorists are still asked to drive with extreme caution, as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the THMR will remain busy through the eruption. The Gilbert Kahele Recreational Area, including restroom facilities, will remain open 24-hours a day until further notice.
- Please stay on the road and do not stray too far onto the old lava fields. The viewing zone is close to military training grounds where unexploded ordnance may still linger.
- Please be aware that this one-way trip may take you anywhere from two to four plus hours to traverse. Plan accordingly as there are no public provisions along the way.
Images of the November 27, 2022, summit eruption of Mauna Loa
For the first time in 38 years Mauna Loa started erupting.
Just before midnight at approximately 11:30 p.m. HST on November 27, an eruption began in Moku‘āweoweo, the summit caldera of Mauna Loa, inside Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
In the early morning the USGS made a first helicopter overfly and already saw large rivers of lava flow down the slopes:
Private companies also made their way up there to capture impressive views of lava fountains.
By early November 29th you could already see large rivers of lava from Saddle Road
There are a few spots in the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park from where you can see the glow from two erupting volcanoes at the same time!
The timelapse below was made by Matthew Wahl on 11/30/22 starting just after sunset. You can get similar views from the southern slopes of Mauna Kea.
As of December 9, activity at the F3 vent continues to be significantly reduced, with low lava fountains feeding lava flows that extend only 1.65 mi (2.65 km) from the vent in northeast direction. The channels below this point appear drained of lava and probably no longer feed the main flow front. The significance of the reduced supply of lava is not yet clear; it is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely. A return to high levels of lava discharge could occur and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to closely monitor this activity.
More images to follow!
Mauna Loa Eruption History
Why did people suddenly start talking about Mauna Loa?
For over a generation Mauna Loa has been all but ignored when discussing active volcanoes in Hawaii. That used to make perfect sense because of the near-constant show Kilauea has been giving (see our lava viewing guide). Now, with the recent eruption of Mauna Loa, this has changed.
What got people talking is that, starting mid-September,
- Earthquake rates below the summit crater tripled (from 10–20 per day to 40–50 per day),
- Inflation recorded by GPS stations increased, and
- Inflation recorded on the Mokuʻāweoweo caldera (MOK) tiltmeter increased.
By now (late November) you can see that a large earthquake (the red line denoting the cumulative moment/energy of the earthquakes) precluded the current eruption. See the following image for the number of earthquakes per week during the past year (blue bars, December 2021 through November 2022).
Map of Previous Mauna Loa Eruptions
Eruptions tend to produce voluminous, fast-moving lava flows that can impact communities on the east and west sides of the Island. See the paths of the most recent (since 1843) lava flows below.
The 1984 eruption of Mauna Loa (almost covering Hilo)
With Kīlauea dominating new cycles the past few decades, Mauna Loa’s status as an active volcano has been put firmly on the back burner. How easily we have all forgotten the eruption of 1984, when lava flows from Mauna Loa nearly wiped out Hilo.
The 1984 eruption of Mauna Loa was preceded by three years of slowly increasing earthquake activity and nine years of summit inflation. The eruption began at 1:25 a.m. on March 25, 1984, in Moku‘āweoweo, the volcano’s summit caldera. By 5:00 p.m., the eruption had migrated down the Northeast Rift Zone, sending lava flows in a northeast direction toward Hilo.
You can catch learn more about the 1984 eruption in the 4:33 minute video below: