Volcano Watch: Learning from the 1984 eruption of Mauna Loa

  • An erupting fissure on Mauna Loa's Northeast Rift Zone is seen March 25, 1984. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Mauna Loa tends to erupt large, fast-moving lava flows. Here, lava flowed downstream (toward bottom-right of photo) through this a‘a channel down rift from the main vent. For scale, note the USGS scientists at work on the left side of the 77-yard-wide lava channel. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • A fissure erupts near the 11,155-foot elevation of Mauna Loa’s northeast rift zone, feeding aa lava flows toward Kilaue in 1984. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Glow from a Mauna Loa lava flow lights up the night sky above Hilo on April 4, 1984. In this photo, captured from near the Hilo airport, the flow front appears closer to the city than it actually was. (David Little/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Maps showing lava flow progression during the 1984 eruption of Mauna Loa. These maps were featured in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald newspaper on March 27, 1984 (top) and March 30, 1984 (bottom). (Courtesy photos/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Inflation and earthquake activity ramped up prior to Mauna Loa’s 1984 eruption, so much so that in June of 1983, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) indicated that an eruption could occur during the following year, though the exact timing was unknown.