Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, world’s largest active volcano spews ash cloud

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, began spewing ash and debris from its summit, prompting civil defense officials to warn residents on Monday to prepare in case the eruption causes lava to flow toward communities.

HONOLULU (AP) — The eruption began late Sunday night in the summit caldera of the volcano on the Big Island following a series of closely spaced, fairly large earthquakes, Ken Hon, the scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcanos Observatory, said at an early morning news conference. Magma moved to the surface, although lava flows were contained within the summit area and weren’t threatening nearby communities.

time-lapse video of the eruption from overnight shows molten lava lighting up the caldera, moving across it like waves on the ocean.

There have been some photos provided to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory that suggest that the south end of the caldera has overflowed, causing some lava flows a few kilometers (miles) out of the caldera, Hon said.

In some previous eruptions, lava has overflowed the caldera but never made it close to populated areas.

“Right now we are looking at indications, trying to figure out if this is going to be an eruption that remains within the summit of Mauna Loa or moves down one of the rift zones either to the southwest and to the northeast,” Hon said.

“We don’t want to try and second guess the volcano,” Hon said. “We have to let it actually show us what it’s going to do and then we inform people of what is happening ASAP.”

There is currently no indication of any migration of the eruption into a rift zone, officials said. A rift zone is where the mountain is splitting apart and the rock is cracked and relatively weak – making it easier for magma to emerge.

“At this time, it’s not a time to be alarmed,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said.

There are no evacuation orders.

Even though it noted there is no indication of lava moving into a rift one, Hawaii County Civil Defense announced it has opened shelters in Kailua-Kona and Pahala because it has reports of people self-evacuating along the South Kona coast.

TYT Newsroom