Volcano Watch — End of the federal shutdown

Release Date:

Although the partial Federal Government shutdown is over for now, the effects of three weeks with a very reduced staff were heavily felt at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. 

Although the partial Federal Government shutdown is over for now, the effects of three weeks with a very reduced staff were heavily felt at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. We found it increasingly difficult to meet the minimum requirements necessary to fulfill our primary mission of monitoring the active volcanoes of Hawaii.

We continued to carefully monitor the lava flow activity of the current eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, but with instrument failures that could not be repaired, our surveillance of possible eruptions elsewhere was greatly decreased. We reassured people in Kona that Hualālai Volcano was not about to erupt, but our studies of the 1800-1801 eruptions were put on hold.

We continued to answer inquiries about geologic hazards from the public, particularly from lending institutions, real estate agents, and land purchasers, but informational meetings scheduled with local business leaders went unattended.

We investigated reports of new ground cracks in Puna, but instrumental data that were collected to determine the deformation of the volcanoes went unanalyzed. We persisted in writing this column, but we could not continue as mentors of students conducting their science fair projects.

We continued to respond to questions about the vog in Hilo, but our gas-monitoring program was at a standstill. We continued to locate earthquakes, but our ability and precision diminished because of instrument failures caused by electrical storms.

These are only a few of the many shortcomings that we experienced with only an emergency staff at work. It will be great to have the entire staff of HVO back to work again. This partial shutdown demonstrated that everyone here is an essential worker.