Mauna Loa 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, on November 27, 2022, she started erupting again.
In the following article we give you a full catch-up on Mauna loa. In short:
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Mauna Loa Q&A + Official Resources
- Mauna Loa Eruption Updates
- How to best view this eruption
- Mauna Loa Eruption Images
- Mauna Loa History
But first: a teaser! This following compilation was made with material provided by Andrew Hara, edited by Dane DuPont, with music by Ikaika Marzo, 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:
Yes! Mauna Loa started eruption at 11:30 pm on November 27, 2022. You can read more about the ongoing eruption here.
There is no need to change travel plans to Hawaiʻi Island at this time as its two major airports – Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO) – are operating normally. However, it is highly recommended that you check with your airline on the status of your flight.
As of November 29 at 3:30 p.m., Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirms that lava has exited Maunaloa summit and can be seen on the northeast flank. The northeast flank is not populated and does not pose a threat to any communities at this time.
Residents and visitors staying in communities downslope of Maunaloa should have emergency preparedness plans ready in the event an evacuation becomes necessary. Visitors staying in short-term vacation rentals should contact their hosts for more information. The major resort areas of Kailua-Kona, the Kohala Coast, and Hilo are not immediately downslope of the eruption.
People who suffer from asthma, emphysema, COPD, or other types of breathing problems should take precautions to avoid the ash and vog that are characteristic of volcanic eruptions. This would include either staying indoors or monitoring how the wind is blowing so as not to be caught in an area where ash and vog are heavy and could impair the ability to breathe normally.
The last time Maunaloa erupted was 38 years ago in 1984. According to the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park website, Maunaloa has erupted 33 times since 1843 — averaging once every five years. Over a longer period of time, the past 3,000 years, it is estimated to have erupted once every six years.
Another way that the current situation is unusual is that there are right now 2 volcanoes erupting on Hawaiʻi Island. Except for 1 day in 1984, the last time that Mauna Loa and Kilauea erupted simultaneously was almost 100 years ago.
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
- Mauna Loa News Updates by the USGS (including pictures)
- USGS Mauna Loa updates
- Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency
- Active Civil Defense Alerts
- USGS twitter account
- Hawaiʻi PODD videos and live streams.
- Our lava viewing guide
- Mauna Loa maps
- Mauna Loa FAQs
The Latest Mauna Loa Activity Updates
We list the most up-to-date official updates from the Hawaiʻi County Civil DEfense Agence 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 (Wednesday, November 30, 2022, 9:08 AM HST)
The Northeast Rift Zone eruption of Mauna Loa continues, with two active fissures feeding lava flows downslope. The fissure 3 lava flows are traveling to the northeast, though the direction shifted slightly westward overnight, still moving toward Saddle Road.
Fissure 3 is the dominant source of the largest lava flow, and the flow front is about 3.6 miles (5.8 km) from Saddle Road as of 7 a.m. HST this morning. The flows have been advancing at a rate of 0.08 miles per hour (130 meters per hour) over the last day, but they are approaching a relatively flat area and will begin to slow down, spread out, and inflate. Forecasts indicate it may take two days for lava flows to reach Saddle Road.
Fissure 4 is still active with lava flows moving toward the northeast at 0.03 miles per hour (50 meters per hour). A small lobe is moving to the east from fissure 4 at a slower rate than the main lobe. Volcanic gas plumes are lofting high and vertically into the atmosphere. Pele’s hair (strands of volcanic glass) is falling in the Saddle Road area.
Our seismic monitoring detects tremor (high rates of earthquakes) in the location of the currently active fissures. This indicates that magma is still being supplied, and activity is likely to continue as long as we see this signal.
There is no active lava within Moku’āweoweo caldera, and the Southwest Rift Zone is not erupting. We do not expect any eruptive activity outside the Northeast Rift Zone. No property is at risk currently.
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 REMAINS CLOSED FROM KĪPUKAPUAULU – The main section of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park remains open. For notices from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, click here.
- 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.”
- On Monday, DOFAW announced the closure of the entire Mauna Loa Forest Reserve, a massive 50,000-acre area. In addition, Bergfeld decided to close the Kīpuka ʻĀinahou Nēnē Sanctuary, ʻĀinapō Trail and cabin, and the Kapāpala Forest Reserve. All areas will be closed for 90-days.
- Earlier, the National Park Service closed access to the Mauna Loa summit from the south, due to the initial period of volcanic unrest. Jack Corrao, Chief Ranger at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, stated, “As part of our eruption response plan, Hawai‘i Volcanoes has implemented further closures to the main, easy, access points that lead up to the Mauna Loa Summit. These include the Mauna Loa Observatory Access Road through Hawai‘i County and Mauna Loa Road, known locally as “Strip Road.” These have been closed physically through barriers. Individuals attempting to access through these are subject to fines and arrest.”
How to best see the Mauna Loa lava and glow
At the moment the eruption continues at the summit region of Mauna Loa. The only active lava is erupting out of the NE rift zone and flowing downwards toward the Saddle Road.
Mauna Loa Eruption webcams
This is by far the safest and easiest way to see the live eruption. Images are refreshes every 10 to 15 minutes. You can see USGS webcam images of the current Mauna Loa eruption here:
- 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) )
Seeing the lava yourself
Currently you can see the lava from large parts of the island. The most popular spots are from parking spots off Saddle Road and the south-facing slopes of Mauna Kea. Public parking is possible at the Gilbert Kahele Recreational Area which will remain open 24 hours a day until further notice. Security guards will be on site from 6:15 p.m. to 6:15 a.m. daily.
If going there is something you are considering please keep a few thing in mind:
- You wont see anything from the eruption but some smoke during daytime. Glow and active surface lava are only visible when it is dark.
- Do not park your car on the shoulder of the road but find a proper parking spot.
- Do not cross under any fencing or any other off-limit areas to get a better view.
- Saddle Road (Rt 200) is a busy road that connects Kona and Hilo. Many people depend on this road for commuting.
Mauna Loa eruption helicopter tours
The recent eruption at the Mauna Loa summit is difficult to reach and at the moment viewing is only possible from public roads at ~10 miles distance. This makes helicopter tours the perfect way to see the action from up close!
Paradise Helicopters organizes a 1-hour tour from Kona to see the eruption. These tours will book up QUICKLY so have a look at their website (here) to see if this is something you want to book. You can read more about that tour on our website:
Mauna Loa Volcano Experience
For the first time in nearly 40 years Mauna Loa is erupting. See the action up and close from a helicopter!
Duration: 1 hour
Free cancellation: up to 48 hours before tour
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!
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: