Guest blog by Shannon Maylath and Hanifah Paul
Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most active and largest volcanoes. The volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian islands are a chain of shield volcanoes that have formed over a hot spot in the pacific ocean, starting around 70 million years ago. The islands have progressed from northwest to southeast over time, making Kohala the oldest, Kilauea the youngest, and Mauna Kea, Hualalai, and Mauna Loa in between. Kilauea is labeled one of Earth’s most active volcanoes. Eruptions at Kilauaea primarily occur along the East and Southwest rift zones. Kilauea has been issuing lava continuously since 1983 while written records for volcanic eruption at this site go as far back as 1820.
Mauna Loa is the most massive volcano on Earth with a volume estimated at approximately 18,000 cubic miles. The low silica content of Mauna Loa produces fast moving lava and gentle, non-explosive eruptions. The drifting of the Pacific Plate will eventually carry Mauna Loa away from the hot spot in about 500,000 years, leaving the volcano extinct.
While Haualalai, the third most active volcano in Hawaii, has not issued an eruption since 1801, geologists project an eruption within the next 100 years, labeling it potentially dangerous. Earthquakes recorded in the 1970’s have been linked to the rising magma levels in Haualalai.
While Haleakala volcano has remained dormant for about 600 years, the newly forming Lo’ihi (a seamount ) is projected by geologists to have intermediate eruptions.
The Hawaiian volcanoes affect many aspects of life on the islands. They can be destructive to property, often shutting down roads and occasionally requiring evacuation, or beneficial by bringing in tourism and interest in the state’s unusual environment.