Volcano Watch — HVO loses two valued scientists, but gains two good friends

Release Date:

This week, HVO bade farewell to Marie Edmonds and Richard "Ricky" Herd, who have been working at the observatory since February 2004. Both came to HVO from Montserrat Volcano Observatory, in the Caribbean, where they studied the ongoing eruption of Soufriere Hills Volcano.

HVO loses two valued scientists, but gains two good friends...

Our friends, Marie Edmonds and Ricky Herd.

(Public domain.)

Marie Edmonds is an expert in volcanic gases and the geology of volcanic deposits. Her work on Soufriere Hills Volcano was featured prominently in the IMAX movie "Forces of Nature." This research was of such high caliber that Marie was offered a prestigious Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellowship (not normally granted to non-US citizens) to work at HVO.

Over the past two years, Marie applied her expertise in Open-Path Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (OP-FTIR) to the development of novel ways to monitor gas emissions from Kīlauea. OP-FTIR does not require direct sampling and can measure a variety of gas compositions. Correlating the gas emissions with other data, like deformation, seismicity, and eruptive behavior, could lead to a new understanding of why eruptions occur, and how they might be predicted.

Marie's research has led to a number of new insights into volcano processes and hazards. At the ocean entry, the plume generated by lava-seawater interaction contains a significant amount of acid gas. During large ocean entries, like those that occurred during the 1919 and 1950 Mauna Loa eruptions, Marie's work suggests that the plume would have a major environmental impact on humans, animals, vegetation, and marine life.

Marie also measured gases from Pu`u `O`o with OP-FTIR, and has found that different types of volcanic behavior are driven by different modes of degassing. This knowledge will enable HVO to more accurately and rapidly assess eruptive conditions, and will be useful for hazards assessment and mitigation.

Ricky Herd is one of the rare individuals who can do almost anything in volcanology. He spent seven years monitoring and studying almost every aspect of the eruption of Soufriere Hills Volcano in Montserrat, and served as Scientist-in-Charge of the observatory.

In Hawai`i, Ricky worked for HVO through the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo. He contributed his tremendous skills to helping many groups at HVO, conducting field work, building equipment, and writing software. His responsibilities included teaching classes to undergraduate students and volcanologists from developing countries, helping to train the current and next generation of volcano scientists.

Ricky played a large part in the building of two remote scanners that will soon be providing near-real-time gas measurements from Pu`u `O`o. Thanks to his efforts, HVO is now able to record gas data continuously during daylight hours. This data will be important to understanding how the volcano is behaving, and whether or not hazardous activity is imminent.

In addition, Ricky helped with the construction of camera systems for monitoring volcanoes, including one that was sent to Mount St. Helens. Ricky's innovative way of making topographic maps from photos taken during helicopter overflights will allow HVO to more closely track activity at Pu`u `O`o, something which had not previously been feasible. These contributions will help HVO in its mission to monitor Hawai`i's volcanoes and provide timely warnings of hazardous activity.

During their off-duty hours, Marie and Ricky thoroughly enjoyed exploring the islands. They could often be found whale watching, diving and snorkeling (especially with manta rays, dolphins, and sharks!), and looking for Hawai`i's native birds. In the Saddle area and on the Hakalau Forest Reserve, they repeatedly spotted and photographed such rare birds as the palila and `akiapola`au.

We will miss Marie and Ricky's innovation and enthusiasm. They introduced many new ideas and methods to the study of Hawaiian volcanoes that will be the focus of additional work for years to come. While we are losing two scientists, we know we have gained two good friends. Aloha and mahalo, Marie and Ricky! We wish you continued success, and many return visits.


Volcano Activity Update

This past week, activity levels at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano have remained at background levels. The number of earthquakes located in the summit area is low (usually less than 10 per day that are large enough to locate). Widening of the summit caldera, indicating inflation, appears to have resumed after pausing earlier in April.
Eruptive activity at Pu`u `O`o continues. On clear nights, glow is visible from several vents within the crater. Lava continues to flow through the PKK lava tube from its source on the flank of Pu`u `O`o to the ocean, with frequent surface flows breaking out of the tube at the 2,300-2,200-ft elevation. The most persistent of these breakouts has spawned the "Campout flow," which has advanced to the 1,600-ft elevation. In the last week, no active flows were reported on the coastal plain.

Lava is still entering the ocean at East Lae`apuki, in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. On the evening of June 24, a breakout began 50 m (165 ft) inland of the sea cliff, and, within a minute, had poured over the sea cliff onto the bench below. Much of the bench was coated with new lava by the next morning. The flow had crusted over by the 27th. The lava bench continues to grow following the major collapse of November 28 and is now approximately 1,000 m (3,300 ft) long by 315 m (1,000 ft) wide, with a total surface area of 20 ha (50 acres).

Access to the sea cliff near the ocean entry is closed, due to significant hazards. The National Park has reopened the surrounding area, however. If you visit the eruption site, check with the rangers for current updates, and remember to carry lots of water when venturing out onto the flow field.

There was one earthquake beneath Hawai`i Island reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-2.9 earthquake occurred at 7:17 p.m. H.s.t. on Thursday, June 22, and was located 5 km (3 miles) northwest of Kīlauea summit at a depth of 7 km (4 miles).

Mauna Loa is not erupting. During the past week, earthquake activity remained low beneath the volcano's summit (one earthquake was located). Extension of distances between locations spanning the summit, indicating inflation, continues at slow rates.