Hotspot volcanoes

The 5 volcanoes that make up the Big Island of Hawaii


Nicknamed the “Aloha State”, The state of Hawaii is located approximately 3,200 km southwest of the contiguous United States in the Pacific Ocean. It is the only American state located outside the North American continent. The eight main islands of Hawaii, namely Hawai’i, Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe, were formed by volcanic activity from the Hawaiian hotspot. in the earth’s mantle. The island of Hawaii, nicknamed the “Big Island,” covers an area of ​​10,432.5 km² and is the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. The island of Hawaii was formed from the eruption of five separate shield volcanoes, namely Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, Kohala and Kilauea. The five volcanic peaks of the Big Island of Hawaii are considered ‘sacred’ by the ancient Hawaiian people.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii.

Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano located in the north-central part of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is also the highest point in the state of Hawaii and the 15e most important mountain peak that rises to an altitude of 4,207.3 m. However, measured from its submarine base, Mauna Kea has a height of over 9,966m, making it the tallest mountain in the world, approximately 1,118m taller than Mount Everest. Approximately 2,382.79 km² area of ​​the Big Island of Hawaii is occupied by Mauna Kea, making Hawaii the second tallest island in the world and the tallest island in North America. Of note, Mauna Kea is the only Hawaiian volcano with well-defined evidence of glaciation. Hence, the Hawaiian name, “Mauna Kéa”, which means “White Mountain,” refers to its seasonally snow-capped peak. Mauna Kea’s last eruption occurred around 4,500 years ago, and today it is considered a dormant volcano. However, volcanologists believe Mauna Kea may erupt again, and its eruption is well overdue. The mountain’s high altitude, stable airflow and arid environment have made the summit of Mauna Kea one of the most suitable sites for astronomical observations in the world. Currently, around 13 observation facilities are placed atop Mauna Kea and are operated by astronomers from 11 countries.

Mauna loa

Mauna loa
Aerial view of Mauna Loa volcano.

Mauna Loa is a giant active shield volcano located in the south-central part of the Big Island of Hawaii and is the main attraction of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Rising to an altitude of 4,169 m and with an estimated volume of 75,000 cubic kilometers, Mauna Loa is the largest subaerial volcano in the world. About 5,271 km², or about 51% of the area of ​​the Big Island of Hawaii, is occupied by Mauna Loa. The enormous weight of Mauna Loa lowered the oceanic crust by about 8 km. Geological studies have revealed that Mauna Loa rose above sea level about 400,000 years ago and is considered the second youngest of the five active volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands. According to records, the active volcano Mauna Loa erupted about 33 times a year from 1843 to date, on average once every six years. However, since the eruption of 1942, Mauna Loa has been inactive for several years.


Kilauea volcano
Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

Kilauea is the most active shield volcano located in the southeastern part of the Big Island of Hawaii which, along with Mauna Loa, is the main attraction of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The volcano rises to an elevation of 1,247m and, as it lacks topographic significance, Kilauea was considered part of neighboring Mauna Loa, with which it also shares similar volcanic activity. Kilauea is considered the second youngest volcano in the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount chain and is estimated to be between 210,000 and 280,000 years old. Kilauea is considered the most active volcano and the southernmost volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, which has erupted several times, with the last eruption beginning on September 29, 2021.


After Mauna Loa and Kilauea, Hualalai is the third most active volcano located in the northwestern part of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Rising to an elevation of 2,521m, Hualalai is Hawaii’s fourth highest peak. About 751 km², or about 7% of the area of ​​the Big Island of Hawai’i, is occupied by Hualalai. With a volume of 12,400 cubic kilometers, Hualalai is considered the westernmost of the five major volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands. Geological studies have revealed that around 300,000 years ago, Hualalai Volcano rose above sea level, and around 100,000 years ago, Hualalai Volcano entered its stage of development. post-shield. According to records, in the past 1,000 years, Hualalai Volcano has erupted at least three times. Based on its volcanic activity, Hualalai has a recurrence interval of around 200 to 300 years. Volcanologists therefore consider Hualalai as “Potentially active” and expect the volcano to erupt within the next 100 years.


Kohala volcano in Hawaii.

Kohala is the oldest of the five shield volcanoes that make up the Big Island of Hawaii. About 606 km², or about 6% of the area of ​​the Big Island of Hawaii, is occupied by Kohala. The mountain has a volume of 14,000 cubic kilometers and is believed to have risen above sea level over 500,000 years ago. According to records, the volcano last erupted around 120,000 years ago. 250,000 to 300,000 years ago, at the end of its shielding phase, a massive landslide destroyed the northeast flank of the Kohala volcano, reducing its height by over 1,000 m. The Kohala volcano is currently considered extinct.