Mauna Loa: The Fiery Mountain
Mauna Loa is Earth’s largest volcano and most massive mountain as it takes up nearly half of the flourishing landscape of the island of Hawai’i. This island is actually made up of five volcanoes, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea, all in such close proximity that they fused together to form one whole island. Mauna Loa is located in the south central area of Hawai’i, in the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and its coordinates are 19°5' N, 155°6' W. It is 13,680 ft above sea level, but if one measures from its true base on the ocean floor, it is estimated to be 30,080 feet tall. Its name is quite fitting as it means “Tall Mountain”.
Mauna Loa is located on a hot spot in the Pacific Ocean. It is not near a plate boundary, in fact it is 3,200 km from the nearest plate boundary, and is situated in the middle of the Pacific tectonic plate. This is actually a rarity, as 90% of volcanoes are along a tectonic plate boundary. A hot spot occurs where long, stationary vertical pools of magma rise up and towards the plate. Movement of the tectonic plates above the hot spot created Mauna Loa, along with the other Hawaiian volcanoes. The older Hawaiian Islands were once above this stationary hot spot, but have been carried northwest by the slowly moving Pacific plate. As the plate moves, it carries the previously formed, older, volcanoes with it, creating a trail of younger, new volcanoes behind. The islands are lined up along the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamounts chain, which is 3,750 miles and includes Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Hawai’i, from north to south, respectively. There are around 80 volcanoes in this chain; most of them underwater, consequently the term seamount refer to submarine volcanoes. Three volcanoes of Hawai’i, Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Loihi seamount, are all currently sharing the Hawaiian hot spot. Although, recent evidence has shown that all three volcanoes use have separate plumbing systems to expel the lava from the pool of magma deep below them. It has also been suggested that Loihi is slowly moving Mauna Loa from the center of the island, thus shifting directly over the hot spot. The closer to the hot spot a volcano is, the more active it will be. The Hawaiian hot spot has laid down layers of lava, building up enormous islands from the ocean floor.