Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted on Thursday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of two neighborhoods as lava spilled out of a newly formed fissure. The lava flow began roughly six hours after a magnitude 5.0 earthquake struck the area, but the damage wasn’t too extensive — less than two hours after the initial eruption, lava flows stopped and had only spread around 30 feet away from the fissure.

While they don’t have to worry about a supervolcano, the specter of a volcanic eruption is perpetually present for Hawaiians. Lava last flowed from Kilauea in 2014, encroaching upon the town of Pahoa and even engulfing the local cemetery. In fact, the islands were formed by continuous magma flows entering the ocean and quickly cooling and solidifying into rock. Because there are still active volcanoes in Hawaii, the islands are constantly growing.

And Kilauea is only one of the non-dormant volcanoes located in the Hawaiian archipelago — here is a list of Hawaii’s active volcanoes:


Kilauea's last major eruption occurred in 1983.

Kilauea is the most active volcano in Hawaii, located on the big island of Hawaii and erupting at a constant rate since 1983. Kilauea has multiple fissures and craters where lava oozes from the Earth.

According to Hawaiian folklore, Pele — the goddess of fire — resides in Halema’uma’u, the most active vent on Kilauea. Pele is said to have created the Hawaiian islands by controlling volcanic lava flows. Like most mythological tales, the story of Pele is an anthropomorphic version of a naturalistic explanation.

Mauna Loa

"Eruption of Mauna Loa, November 5, 1889, as seen from Kawaihae" by Charles Furneaux

Mauna Loa is also located on the big island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa — which translates to “Long Mountain” — is the largest active volcano on the planet, towering nearly 14,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It has erupted 33 times since 1868, with the most recent eruption occurring in 1984. During the 1984 eruption, lava flows encroached upon Hilo, the island’s most populous region, coming within four miles of the city limits.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Mauna Loa isn’t expected to erupt anytime soon. However, scientists are constantly monitoring the volcano for any signs of unrest. Of the three active volcanoes, Mauna Loa has the potential to do the most damage.


submarine volcano
This picture of an underwater explosion at the West Mata volcano likely resembles Lō‘ihi.

Lō‘ihi is a submarine volcano located 18 miles off the shore of Hawaii’s big island. Currently, the volcano rises around 10,000 feet from the seafloor, with a summit nearly 3,200 feet below sea level. However, it is constantly growing, as lava flows exit from the volcano into the ocean, laying the rocky foundation for what could be the next Hawaiian island.

It could take hundreds of thousands of years for Lō‘ihi to breach the surface, although the timeline all depends on Lō‘ihi’s eruption rate. Volcanic activity at Lō‘ihi is also tied to frequent tremors off the Hawaiian coast.