Living in the Shadow of Mauna Loa

One of Hawaii’s most dangerous natural hazards is sitting in plain sight: Mauna Loa volcano. The mighty mountain makes up more than fifty percent of the island and is the largest volcano on Earth. Since 1843, when people started rigorously recording Mauna Loa’s eruptive activity, the volcano has produced raging lava flows, billowing sulfuricrich clouds, and giant ground cracks, as well as triggered earthquakes, landslides, and even tsunamis. While geologists and emergency managers are concerned about and actively preparing for a future eruption, Hawaii’s general public is largely ignorant or apathetic to their risk. This thesis explores what a future Mauna Loa eruption may look like in terms of geology, disaster response, and damage. It also identifies and profiles the most threatened Hawaiian communities and industries, as well as explores the factors driving differences in risk perception across various stakeholders on the island.

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