How big are the Hawaiian volcanoes?

The Hawaiian shield volcanoes are the largest mountains on Earth.

Mauna Kea Volcano rises 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level but extends about 19,700 feet (6,000 meters) below sea level to meet the deep ocean floor. Its total height is nearly 33,500 feet (10,211 meters), considerably higher than the height of the tallest mountain on land, Mount Everest (Chomolungma) in the Himalayas, which is 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level.

Mauna Loa Volcano stands not quite as high as Mauna Kea but is much larger in volume.

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Which volcanic eruptions were the deadliest?

Deadliest Volcanic Eruptions Since 1500 A.D. Eruption Year Casualties Major Cause Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia 1985 25,000 1,3 Mudflows 3 Mont Pelée, Martinique 1902 30,000 1 (29,025) 2 Pyroclastic flows 2 Krakatau, Indonesia 1883 36,000 1 (36,417) 2 Tsunami 2 Tambora, Indonesia 1815 92,000 1,2 Starvation 2 Unzendake, Japan 1792 15,000 1 (14,030) 2...

How hot is a Hawaiian volcano?

Very hot!! Here are some temperatures recorded at different times and locations: The eruption temperature of Kīlauea lava is about 1,170 degrees Celsius (2,140 degrees Fahrenheit). The temperature of the lava in the tubes is about 1,250 degrees Celsius (2,200 degrees Fahrenheit). The tube system of episode 53 (Pu'u O'o eruption) carried lava for...

Why is it important to monitor volcanoes?

The United States and its territories contain 169 geologically active volcanoes, of which 54 volcanoes are a high threat or very high threat to public safety. Many of these volcanoes have erupted in the recent past and will erupt again in the foreseeable future. As populations increase, areas near volcanoes are being developed and aviation routes...

How can we tell when a volcano will erupt?

Most volcanoes provide warnings before an eruption. Magmatic eruptions involve the rise of magma toward the surface, which normally generates detectable earthquakes. It can also deform the ground surface and cause anomalous heat flow or changes in the temperature and chemistry of the groundwater and spring waters. Steam-blast eruptions, however,...

Is it dangerous to work on volcanoes? What precautions do scientists take?

Volcanoes are inherently beautiful places where forces of nature combine to produce awesome events and spectacular landscapes. For volcanologists, they're FUN to work on! Safety is, however, always the primary concern, because volcanoes can be dangerous places. USGS scientists try hard to understand the risk inherent in any situation, then train...

What was the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century?

The World's largest eruption of the 20th century occurred in 1912 at Novarupta on the Alaska Peninsula. An estimated 15 cubic kilometers of magma was explosively erupted during 60 hours beginning on June 6th. This volume is equivalent to 230 years of eruption at Kilauea (Hawaii) or about 30 times the volume erupted by Mount St. Helens (Washington...

Which volcanoes in the conterminous United States have erupted since the Nation was founded?

Excluding steam eruptions, these volcanoes have shown activity: Mount St. Helens, Washington - Eruptions and/or lava dome growth occurred in the late 1700s, 1800-1857, 1980-1986, and 2004-2007. Lassen Peak, California - A series of steam blasts began on May 30, 1914. An eruption occurred 12 months later on May 21, 1915. Minor activity continued...

Where is the largest active volcano in the world?

Rising gradually to more than 4 km above sea level, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on our planet. Its submarine flanks descend to the sea floor an additional 5 km (3 mi), and the sea floor in turn is depressed by Mauna Loa's great mass another 8 km (5 mi). This makes the volcano's summit about 17 km (10.5 mi) above its base!

What was the most destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States?

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens (Washington) was the most destructive in the history of the United States. Novarupta (Katmai) Volcano in Alaska erupted considerably more material in 1912, but owing to the isolation and sparse population of the region, there were no human deaths and little property damage. In contrast, the eruption of...

What kind of school training do you need to become a volcanologist?

There are many paths to becoming a volcanologist. Most include a college or graduate school education in a scientific or technical field, but the range of specialties is very large. Training in geology, geophysics, geochemistry, biology, biochemistry, mathematics, statistics, engineering, atmospheric science, remote sensing, and related fields can...

How many active volcanoes are there on Earth?

There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, aside from the continuous belt of volcanoes on the ocean floor. About 500 of these have erupted in historical time. Many of these are located along the Pacific Rim in what is known as the 'Ring of Fire.' In the United States, volcanoes in the Cascade Range and Alaska (Aleutian volcanic...
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August 30, 2018

PubTalk 8/2018 — What on Earth is going on at Kilauea Volcano?

Title: What on Earth is going on at Kilauea Volcano?

  • First significant summit explosions in nearly a century
  • Largest summit collapse volume since at least 1800
  • Voluminous fissure eruptions feeding channelized lava flow
  • Unparalleled new opportunities for understanding the volcanic system
I will never forget the first time I saw Denali. Even from Anchorage, over 100 miles away, I could see a massive mound of white
April 18, 2016


Hawaiian volcanoes, image of the week
February 9, 2016

Hawaiian volcanoes, image of the week

Three images showing Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the island of Hawaii; 2016 satellite image mosaic

Image: Kilauea's east rift zone eruption site
January 19, 2010

Kilauea's east rift zone eruption site

Kīlauea's east rift zone eruption site. Pu`u `Ō `ō is to the right, and the TEB vent and upper tube system is to the left and behind Pu`u `Ō `ō.

Image: Aerial View of Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii
January 9, 1985

Aerial View of Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists monitor Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth. In this 1985 aerial photo, Mauna Loa looms above Kīlauea Volcano’s summit caldera (left center) and nearly obscures Hualālai in the far distance (upper right).

Attribution: Natural Hazards
AK Mount McKinley A-3 US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)
December 31, 1954

AK Mount McKinley A-3 US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

AK Mount McKinley A-3 US Topo (Browse Image for Story Map)

Mount McKinley landscape

Mount McKinley landscape

At 20,320 feet, Mount McKinley is North America’s highest peak. (Photo courtesy of Todd Paris, UAF).

Image: GPS monitoring of Hawaiian Volcanoes

GPS monitoring of Hawaiian Volcanoes

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory uses a variety of ground- and satellite-based techniques to monitor Hawai‘i’s active volcanoes.  Here, an HVO scientist sets up a portable GPS receiver to track surface changes during an island-wide survey of Hawai‘i’s volcanoes.


Attribution: Natural Hazards
Hawaii shaded relief map

Hawaii Map - Shaded Relief

A shaded relief map of Hawaii which is available through the USGS Store.