Hailing as the youngest of the Hawaiian Island, the Island of Hawaii (or “Big Island” as it is more popularly known) is home to the world’s most active volcano. Kilauea is the most well known volcano on the Big Island but it is only one of five that make up that island. The five volcanoes of the Big Island are Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Kohala, and Hualalai. Out of the five volcanoes, one is extinct, one is dormant, and three are considered active by the US Geological Survey.
Erupting continuously since 1983, Kilauea is considered the world’s most active volcano. Millions of visitors flock to the volcano each year for the chance to see lava flowing down the mountain side, making it Hawaii’s most visited attraction. It’s the youngest of the Hawaiian volcanoes and the US Geological Survey considers it the most dangerous volcano in the United States. Each year the lava flows destroy numerous houses and forest area, as well as increase the land size of the Big Island. Many of the other Hawaiian islands are sometimes affected by Kilauea’s “vog”. Vog is an occasional smog-like substance that sits in the air due to the Sulfur Dioxide gas that the volcano emits. Each day the Hawaii Civil Defense monitors the air quality of the Big Island to keep tourists and residents safe. Kilauea is not expected to stop erupting anytime soon.
The largest volcano in the world that is considered active is Mauna Loa. The last eruption was in 1984 and lasted for three weeks and covered over 16 square miles with it’s lava. Compared to Kilauea, Mauna Loa produces enormous volumes of lava and the mountain side slopes are much steeper which allows the lava to travel faster and farther. In recorded volcano history Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times. It is estimated that it was approximately 400,000 years ago that Mauna Loa emerged above the ocean. The US Geological Survey does not expect for Mauna Loa to slow down for good anytime soon… current predictions expect Mauna Loa to stay active for the next 500,000 to one million years.
Coming in third in size and activity is Hualalai, located on the western side of Big Island. Hualalai’s peak is at 8,271 feet above sea level. It’s last eruption was 1801 and has the potential for another eruption soon… historically the volcano erupts every 200-300 years. This could have huge effects on the island of Hawaii as their main airport, the Kona International Airport, was built on an old Hualalai lava flow. A huge benefit of Hualalai is it’s rich volcanic soil. The western slopes are home to most of Kona’s famous coffee crop.
Mauna Kea is the island’s fourth most active volcano. In Hawaiian Mauna Kea means “White Snow”, because snow is frequently seen on the summit. If you measured the volcano from the floor of the ocean to the summit above sea level it would be considered the tallest mountain in the world. There are numerous observatories on the slopes of this dormant volcano. The last eruption was 4,500 years ago but it is expected to erupt again one day soon.
The smallest and oldest volcano on the island of Hawaii is Kohala. It is considered extinct by the US Geological Survey and is slowly sinking into the ocean. Some portions of Kohala have been covered by lava flows from the other volcanoes on the southern side of the volcano. It’s soil is perfect for growing sweet potatoes and the leeward side of the volcano is covered with sweet potato crops.