Cinder Cones on Mauna Kea

April 28, 2010


Photographer: Kelly Fast
Summary Authors: Kelly Fast; Jim Foster

This inhospitable looking landscape is found atop one of the top vacation spots in the world – the Big Island of Hawaii. While hiking to the observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea (13,795 ft or about 4,205 m) where I would soon be observing Mars and Saturn, views of these cinnamon colored cinder cones caught my attention. Cinder cones, also known as scoria cones, form around volcanic vents and are typically composed of accumulations of pyroclastic material resulting from prior discharges. They’re found on both the flanks of shield volcanoes, such as Mauna Kea or nearby Mauna Loa, many of the Icelandic volcanoes, and on stratovolcanoes, such as Mount Vesuvius and Mount Etna in Italy. Though these steep-sided cones are often only tens of feet in height, they may protrude hundreds of feet above the mountain sides on which they reside. The plume in the distance (center of photo) is from a small eruption of Kilauea. Photo taken in March 2010.