Volcano Watch — HVO Website gets some cool new improvements

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Many here on the Big Island and around the world enjoy tracking volcanic activity in Hawai‘i through the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Website. The Website provides real-time seismic, deformation and gas concentration data, Webcam images of the eruptive areas, and recent maps, field photos, and videos. This week, HVO has updated the site to make it even better.

One major improvement is the addition of more Webcams on the site. Until recently, we have shown six Webcams. Over the past year, we have deployed and tested a handful of additional Webcams around Kīlauea Volcano, both at the summit and along the east rift zone. Now, the HVO Website shows 14 Webcams, some of which show the volcano in a fascinating new way.

Four of these new Webcams are thermal cameras. These cameras provide a picture of temperatures in the field of view, with cool colors (blue, purple) depicting lower temperatures and hot colors (orange, red, white) showing higher temperatures.

It is important to realize that the temperature scale shown next to the image is in units of Celsius. For reference, the hottest temperature in your oven is 500 degrees Fahrenheit (F), which is 260 degrees Celsius (C). Lava at Kīlauea is erupted at around 1,100 degrees C (2,012 degrees F), but lava normally develops a cooler crust within seconds of being exposed to the air. Active flows, therefore, will normally have temperatures on their surface much less than 1,100 degrees C, often around a few hundred degrees Celsius. The thermal camera model that we use has a maximum measurable temperature of 500 degrees C, which is adequate for most scenarios.

The thermal cameras show temperatures, but many factors can result in the measured temperatures being lower than the actual surface temperature. One of the biggest factors is the thick volcanic gas, which can reduce the measured temperature somewhat. Thick fog or clouds can also lower the temperature measurements. Even when temperatures are reduced, however, the relative temperatures in the image can still provide a useful depiction of activity.

One of the primary benefits of the thermal cameras, compared to conventional Webcams, is that they can "see" through thick fume (although it may depress the measured temperatures, as mentioned above). For instance, in many cases, the view into the Halema‘uma‘u vent with the naked eye and normal Webcams is entirely blocked by thick fume, but the thermal cameras can see through this fume and show the lava lake. This truly provides 24/7 observation of volcanic activity.

Some of the other Webcams are called "Mobile Cams," because they get moved around the volcano from time to time, depending on changes in activity. Whereas our normal Webcams are fixed in place and use our radio telemetry system to send out data, these Mobile Cams transmit data over the cellular phone networks, allowing us to rapidly place them wherever there is cell reception.

But Webcams aren't the only improvements to the Website. HVO computer experts have been working tirelessly to make the site more modern and efficient. Much of this has been converting our pages of regularly updated content into a "database-driven" format. The database format stores data in a more dynamic manner, allowing for easier, more reliable organization and service of information on the Website.

These changes will be applied to the pages showing Webcams, maps, field photos and videos, Volcano Watch articles, press releases, and regular eruption updates. These pages will only look slightly different but, under the hood, will be working much more efficiently.

By using updated Webpage-hosting software and more robust computer servers the Website will have more reliable "uptime." Our old system had some failures when many people logged on during exciting periods of activity, such as the March 2011 Kamoamoa eruption.

These are changes we've made in addition to another recent upgrade to our Website, which is the new and improved seismic data Webpage called Volcweb (described in the March 8, 2012, Volcano Watch article). Volcweb can be found under the "Current EQs" link on the main page.

With these improvements to the HVO Webpage, tracking volcanic activity in Hawai‘i has never been easier for the public. Note that many former links to webcams, etc., will need to be reset. We invite you to explore these new changes by starting at hvo.wr.usgs.gov.


Volcano Activity Update

A lava lake present within the Halema‘uma‘u Overlook vent during the past week resulted in night-time glow that was visible from the Jaggar Museum overlook. The lake, which is normally about 90–115 m (295–377 ft) below the floor of Halema‘uma‘u Crater and visible by HVO's Webcam, rose and fell slightly during the week in response to a series of large deflation-inflation cycles.

On Kīlauea's east rift zone, surface lava flows were active on the pali and upper coastal plain, in Royal Gardens subdivision, over the past week. As of Thursday, March 22, the flows were still more than 2 km (1.2 miles) from the coast, and there was no active ocean entry.

Two earthquakes beneath Hawai‘i Island were reported felt this past week. A magnitude-2.7 earthquake occurred at 3:42 p.m., HST, on Monday, March 19, 2012, and was located 4 km (2 mi) southeast of Pu‘ulena Crater at a depth of 2 km (1 mi). A magnitude-3.7 earthquake occurred at 00:04 a.m. (4 minutes after midnight) on Thursday, March 22, and was located 40 km (25 mi) west and offshore of Kailua-Kona at a depth of 33 km (21 miles).