Mauna Kea, the Big Island of Hawaii. January 2000 - Photograph copyrighted and provided by Dan Olberg, Senior Geologist, PT Nusa Halmahera Minerals.


Mauna Kea is the tallest volcano on the Island of Hawaii. From sea floor to summit it towers more than 5.6 miles (9 km). It is also the second largest volcano on the island. It began erupting on the sea floor about 800,000 years ago. Most of the volcano is made of shield-building lavas. Post-shield volcanism began about 300,000 years ago, producing cinder cones and lava flows that cover most of the present-day surface of the volcano. The light colored material that blankets the summit of the volcano is glacial till. Mauna Kea is the only Hawaiian volcano known to be glaciated. Mauna Kea has erupted several times in the last 10,000 years. The most recent eruption was about 3,500 years ago. Mauna Kea is considered a dormant volcano.


Snow on the summit of Mauna Kea. Copyrighted photo by Dorian Weisel.

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United States