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Mauna Loa Volcano Eruption: Satellites Capture Striking Views From Space

Hawaii's Mauna Loa last spewed ash in 1984.

A blood red sky with a glow in the distance showing eruption of Mauna Loa. Grasses grow in the foreground.
USGS scientists Ken Hon with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory captured a view of Mauna Loa's eruption in the distance.
Ken Hon/USGS HVO

The largest active volcano on the planet has just delivered a "don't forget about me" message to the world. Hawaii's Mauna Loa is erupting for the first time since 1984, and eyes up in space are watching the action unfold. 

Mauna Loa's eruption began late on Sunday night. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies tweeted a view from the GOES-West Earth observation satellite on Monday. The GIF shows the volcano's thermal activity as a riot of yellow and red along with the movement of an ash and debris cloud. 

NOAA shared another look from space that highlights the volcano's heat signature and the release of sulfur dioxide from the summit.

Mauna Loa's summit is located in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. There have been signs the volcano was getting restless. The National Park Service closed the summit due to increased seismic activity in early October. Seismic rumblings can indicate that a volcano is getting ready to erupt. NPS has since closed other parts of the park near Mauna Loa due to the eruption.

The United States Geological Survey captured an intriguing view of the eruption from the volcano's summit using a thermal camera. 

A research camera positioned on the volcano's north rim caught sight of the eruption as it occurred. A spectacular 24-hour time-lapse GIF lets you chart the process as it goes from calm to active.

This GIF tracks Mauna Loa before and after its eruption late on Nov. 27, 2022.

USGS

Researchers will keep on an eye on Mauna Loa. "Lava is still erupting from the summit and is overflowing from the caldera. No threats to populated areas currently," USGS reported. Hawaii residents can track emergency updates here.

It's an unpredictable volcano. "Based on past events, the early stages of a Mauna Loa eruption can be very dynamic and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly," USGS said. The agency also cautioned that winds may carry volcanic gas, fine ash and thin fibers of volcanic glass downwind. 

Satellite monitoring technology has come a long way since Mauna Loa last erupted. The volcano had been in its longest quiet period in recorded history, but that stretch of calm has come to an end now. Mauna Loa is awake.