Volcano Watch — A 'who's who' of Big Island observatories

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The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is located on the northwest rim of Kīlauea caldera adjacent to the Jagger Museum. Because of its location within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, many people have the mistaken impression that the Observatory is administered by the National Park Service. 

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is located on the northwest rim of Kīlauea caldera adjacent to the Jagger Museum. Because of its location within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, many people have the mistaken impression that the Observatory is administered by the National Park Service. The Observatory is actually part of the United States Geological Survey, a sister agency with the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the newly created National Biological Survey in the Department of the Interior. Each of these agencies has personnel located inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The different observatories located on the Island of Hawaii also lead to some confusion, as we are constantly reminded by the many errant phone calls we receive concerning upcoming celestial events. The Mauna Kea Observatory consists of the various telescopes at the summit of Mauna Kea Volcano. The Mauna Loa Observatory is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is a weather observatory responsible for collection of a long-term data set on the changing composition of the atmosphere.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has the responsibility to monitor the active volcanoes in Hawaii and to assess the geological hazards related to volcanic activity. These hazards include lava flow inundation, earthquakes, landslides, subsidence, ground cracking, gas emissions, and locally-generated tsunami. Because Kīlauea has been the most active volcano for the last 40 years, we direct most of our monitoring efforts here. However, Mauna Loa is monitored with a seismic network and various continuous and episodic deformationmeasurements that keep us alert to changes that might signal renewed activity. Likewise, Hualālai and Haleakalā Volcanoes have each erupted within the last 200 years and each could erupt again since the average time between eruptions is only several hundred years. We have minimal monitoring aimed at these volcanoes because of the infrequency of their eruptions. However, at the first sign of activity, we are prepared to deploy additional equipment to monitor changes that could preceed an eruption.

Volcano Activity Update

Activity at Kīlauea continues with lava erupted from the vents on the flanks of the Pu'u 'O 'o cone travelling underground through a tube and entering the ocean at Lae'apuki near the end of Chain of Craters Road inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.