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In addition, explosive eruptions have built cinder cones near the summit.
Despite Hawaii's tropical location, during several past ice ages a drop of only a degree in temperature allowed snow to remain at the mountain's summit through summer, triggering the formation of an ice cap.
Late volcanism has also given it a much rougher appearance than its neighboring volcanoes; contributing factors include the construction of cinder cones, the decentralization of its rift zones, the glaciation on its peak, and the weathering effects of the prevailing trade winds.
Mauna Kea last erupted 6,000 to 4,000 years ago and is now considered dormant.
In Hawaiian mythology, the peaks of the island of Hawaii are sacred.
In 2012 two more bore holes were drilled on Mauna Kea and water discovered at much higher elevations than previously believed but shallower than expected.These changes in lava composition accompanied the slow reduction of the supply of magma to the summit, which led to weaker eruptions that then gave way to isolated episodes associated with volcanic dormancy.The Laupāhoehoe lavas are more viscous and contain more volatiles than the earlier tholeiitic basalts; their thicker flows significantly steepened Mauna Kea's flanks.Hawaiian lava types are typically permeable, preventing the formation of lakes due to infiltration.Here, either sulfur-bearing steam altered the volcanic ash to low-permeability clays, or explosive interactions between rising magma and groundwater or surface water (phreatic eruptions) formed exceptionally fine ash that also would reduce the permeability of the lake bed.