An eruption at Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island began on 27 November, the first in 34 years.
13 April 2023
14 December 2022
By Anu-Maija Sundström, Julia Wagemann, Sabrina Szeto and Federico Fierli
Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano, and it is located on the south-central part of Hawaii’s Big Island. On 27 November, the volcano began erupting for the first time since 1984.
In volcanic eruptions, large amounts of gases, ash, and other aerosol particles are emitted in the atmosphere. One of the major emitted species is sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is a reactive gas and an important indicator of volcanic activity.
SO2 emissions from volcanic eruptions are clearly visible from satellite observations. One of the first satellite observations of the Mauna Loa SO2 plume was captured by the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment-2 instrument (GOME-2) onboard the Metop-B and Metop-C satellites on 28 November (Figure 1).
The plume of SO2 with more than 10DU was emitted to the troposphere with an estimated plume height of about 6km in the immediate vicinity of the volcano (Figure 2).
The SO2 plume was transported eastwards over the United States, then the Atlantic, up to the west coast of Africa, reaching plume heights of about 8-15km. Overall, SO2 emissions were being transported more than 12,000km from their origin.
Figure 3 shows GOME-2 observations on 3 December, when elevated SO2 concentrations from Mauna Loa, were visible being transported to the west coast of Africa.
Figure 4 shows emissions on 7 December, when the direction of the transport changed more towards the north. The plume remained visible in satellite observations until 12 December.