Mauna Loa in Hawaii is the largest volcano on earth and, according to the United States Geological Survey, it is also one of the planet's most active volcanoes. Life near Mauna Loa, like life near any active volcano, has both benefits and drawbacks.
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Perhaps the most obvious positive effect of a volcano is its ability to create new land. Indeed, as the scientists at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory put it, "there wouldn't be a Hawaii without volcanoes." Successive eruption of lava raised the Hawaiian islands above sea level. Hilo Bay was created by a lava flow from Mauna Loa around 1,400 years ago, while Kiholo Bay was added to by lava during an 1859 eruption.
As they are worn down by the elements, the lava flows and volcanic ash are transformed into fertile farmland. The crops grown in Hawaii today such as coffee, macadamia nuts and sugar all have their roots in the volcanic soil.
The potential destructive power of any volcano is a major drawback of living close by. Mauna Loa is extremely active and has erupted at least 33 times since 1843. Mauna Loa is a shield volcano, emitting fluid "runny" lava, which means that its eruptions are not likely to be as explosive as those of other types of volcano. Historically, however, it has still proved destructive. Lava flows from an 1859 eruption destroyed the village of Wainanalii, while earthquakes which accompanied an eruption in 1887 damaged houses in the town of Hilo.
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