Volcano Watch — HVO is 85

Release Date:

Ne plus haustae aut obrutae urbes (No more shall the cities be destroyed). January, 1997, marks the 85th anniversary of the dedication of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. 

Ne plus haustae aut obrutae urbes (No more shall the cities be destroyed). January, 1997, marks the 85th anniversary of the dedication of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. On January 17, 1912, Professor Thomas A. Jaggar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) arrived at the Volcano House to work as the director of a volcano observatory located at the rim of Kīlauea caldera. Among the goals of the newly dedicated observatory was the undertaking of geological studies with humanitarian applications, including earthquakeprediction and developing methods of protecting life and property on the basis of scientific findings.

Professor Jaggar was one of the scientists sent in 1902 by the U. S. government to investigate the volcanic disasters at Soufriere, Montserrat and Mont Pelee, Martinique. From that experience, Jaggar became committed to the study of active volcanoes, and he recognized the need for full-time, on-site volcano studies to provide the scientific basis for understanding and possibly predicting earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In 1909, the funding was secured from a number of sources to sponsor the programs of a volcano observatory to be located on Kīlauea. Beginning in 1909 and 1910, with Jaggar and co-workers still operating from MIT, seismometers and special thermometers were ordered, and, also in 1910, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was founded.

Through the years and with a great deal of dedicated effort, HVO has grown and its programs have expanded and evolved from those initiated by Jaggar and his colleagues. The development of appropriate instruments to make their measurements and observations was a significant part of early HVO activities. As technology has evolved, we have tried to incorporate new technologies and methods to further promote our volcanic and earthquake studies, and much of our research remains focused on how to improve our ability to accurately forecast volcanic behavior.

As an extension of Jaggar's rationale for choosing Kīlauea as the location for HVO, much of our work within the USGS Volcano Hazards Program is aimed at developing monitoring techniques and providing USGS personnel with volcano monitoring experiences that will lend themselves to volcanic settings other than Hawaii. Current and former HVO staff have participated in volcano crisis responses world-wide. Perhaps fitting with our 85th anniversary, this month HVO staff are assisting with the monitoring of Soufriere Hills, Montserrat, in the same region as the places where Jaggar studied in 1902 before founding HVO.

Volcano Activity Update

The eruption of Kīlauea Volcano continues. Lava continues to flow into the ocean via a single main feeder tube to the coastal bench. At higher elevations, a small lava flow from a breakout of the tube system was observed. A small earthquake was felt from beneath the northwest flank of Mauna Kea. It occurred at a depth of 16 miles, at 11:04 PM on January 19. The magnitude of this earthquake was 2.2.