USGS HVO Press Release — Two talks about Kīlauea Volcano at UH-Hilo

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Hawai‘i ISLAND, Hawaii —January 2014 is "Volcano Awareness Month," and Kīlauea Volcano will be the focus of two talks presented at the University of Hawai‘i in the coming weeks. 

On Thurs., Jan. 9, Dr. Don Swanson, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, will talk about his work on solving the puzzle of human footprints preserved in Kīlauea ash deposits. On Thurs., Jan. 16, Dr. Carolyn Parcheta, a volcanologist from UH-Manoa, will present findings from her study of fissure eruptions on Kīlauea. 

Both presentations are free and begin at 7:00 p.m. in the University Classroom Building, Room 100, on the UH–Hilo main campus, 200 W. Kawili Street, in Hilo. A campus map is online:

Kīlauea Volcano erupted violently in 1790—its largest explosive eruption in 1,000 years—spewing ash that blanketed an extensive area downwind of the summit vent. Don Swanson has spent more than 10 years of field work trying to answer questions about the human footprints preserved in these ash deposits.

According to Swanson, the footprints were left by people walking on muddy volcanic ash likely deposited within several hours of the 1790 eruption, which killed as many as several hundred people. "Probably some of the people who died during the eruption left the footprints we see today," he said.

He added that most of the people who left footprints were women and children. He will share how he reached this conclusion and discuss the still unanswered questions about the footprints in his Jan. 9 presentation.

Copies of a USGS Fact Sheet, "Kīlauea—An Explosive Volcano in Hawai‘i," written by Swanson and his research colleagues will be distributed at his talk. The fact sheet is also available online:

Fissure eruptions frequently occur on Hawaiian volcanoes and are the most common style of eruption on Earth. Yet, due to their complexity, they are not well understood. Carolyn Parcheta, in collaboration with HVO geologists, has taken on the challenge of figuring out how fissure eruptions work.

According to Parcheta, understanding what happens during a fissure eruption can help determine how magma behaves below ground seconds to minutes before it erupts, as well as how lava creates new surface features after it is erupted. "We are learning how magma and gas work together to form the lava fountains erupted from fissures, and how that lava then produces lava flows, spatter cones, and other features associated with fissure eruptions," she said.

Parcheta will talk about her investigations of the 2011 Kamoamoa and 1969 Mauna Ulu fissure eruptions and what she has discovered from them in her Jan. 16 presentation.

These UH-Hilo presentations are two of many programs offered by HVO during Hawai‘i Island's fifth annual Volcano Awareness Month. For more information about these and other Volcano Awareness Month talks, visit the HVO website (, email, or call (808) 967-8844.

Daily updates about ongoing eruptions, recent images and videos of summit and East Rift Zone volcanic activity, maps, and data about recent earthquakes in Hawaii are posted on the HVO website at

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