The Big Island of Hawaii's Mauna loa volcano erupted for the first time in 38 years late Sunday night after a series of eruptions.

Kenneth Rubin, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has been waiting for the eruption of the largest active volcano in the world. I have lived in Hawaii for thirty-plus years and have seen many spectacular things from Kilauea, but I am watching this eruption closely and hoping for no significant impacts on Hawaii's communities.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the eruption began at 11:30 p.m. In the early hours of the morning, lava flowed from the summit area to a fissure on the northeast side.

Although there are few current safety risks to nearby communities, which are mostly downhill on the southwest side of the volcano, the location and direction of lava flow can shift rapidly, and residents who are at risk were advised to review their preparation plans.

In their earliest days, mauna loa eruptions are very dynamic. The conditions on the ground can change very fast.

The public could be at risk from winds that carry volcanic gas, fine ash and glass fibers.

The volcano alert level was raised from an advisory to a warning. The mayor of Hawaii County stated on his Facebook page that there were no threats to the community. The shelters were open for people who left their homes.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation issued a travel advisory after Southwest Airlines canceled flights to the airport.

An area of more than 2,000 square miles, mostly under water, is covered by the mountain. It has scientific instruments that measure seismicity, gas and thermal activity, and the eruption offers an opportunity to gather data to help predict future eruptions.

Wendy Stovall is a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. She said that safety for people near the eruption had to be the top priority. She said there wasn't a huge concern at the moment.

ImageThe Mauna Loa eruption as seen from Waikoloa, Hawaii, early Monday morning.
The Mauna Loa eruption as seen from Waikoloa, Hawaii, early Monday morning.Credit...Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today, via Associated Press
The Mauna Loa eruption as seen from Waikoloa, Hawaii, early Monday morning.

Jim Kauahikaua is a volcanologist with the U.S.G.S. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

A volcanic "hot spot" is thought to be caused by molten rock and minerals from the Earth's mantle flowing up through the crust.

During the month of September, the number of earthquakes below the summit increased from 10 to 20 per day. There were early signs of a possible eruption. Near-daily updates on the volcano's status were set off by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake on the southeastern flank in October.

There were earthquakes near the volcano the day before it erupted. According to Dr. Stovall, experts only noticed the eruption had begun an hour before it reached the volcano's surface. She said they knew they didn't have a lot of time.

ImageMolten rock flowing from Mauna Loa near Hilo, Hawaii, in 1984.
Molten rock flowing from Mauna Loa near Hilo, Hawaii, in 1984.Credit...Ken Love/Associated Press
Molten rock flowing from Mauna Loa near Hilo, Hawaii, in 1984.

Most of the eruptions that took place before 1950 happened before 1843. In 1975, a summit eruption and an eruption in 1984 occurred. The last eruption caused volcanic air pollution across the state and led the authorities to close Highway 200.

According to Dr. Kauahikaua, there seems to be a relationship between activity at the two volcanos.

From 1983 to 2018? The eruption produced 320,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of lava that changed the landscape and destroyed 700 homes.

He said that the relationship is speculative given the limited amount of recorded data.

The volcano is hundreds of thousands of years old and has only been tracked for a few hundred years.

According to Dr. Kauahikaua, observers are watching for risks.

We need to know where the lava is coming from and how fast it is moving. There is a chance that new Vents will open up.

The size of the eruptions and the power of them are all intriguing attributes for volcanologists.