Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

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January 29, 2020

What will you do when Earth’s largest active volcano erupts?

In 2019, the Volcano Alert Level for Mauna Loa was elevated from “NORMAL” to “ADVISORY” due to increased seismicity and deformation at the volcano. This alert level does not mean an eruption is imminent, but it is a fact that Mauna Loa, which has erupted 33 times since 1843 (most recently in 1984), will erupt again. What will you do when it does? USGS Hawaiian Volcano

January 28, 2020

Seismicity of the 2018 Kīlauea Volcano eruption

The 2018 Kīlauea eruption produced unprecedented levels of seismicity in the volcano’s instrumented history. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory documented about 80,000 earthquakes during the three-month-long eruption, starting with the dramatic collapse of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone on April 30 and ending with the final Kīlauea summit caldera collapse event on August 5. The

Color photograph of native Hawaiian plant and fluxmeter
January 24, 2020

Portulaca sclerocarpa and WEST Systems fluxmeter

This Portulaca sclerocarpa (‘Ihi mākole) individual (center) surrounded by invasive grass species is a critically endangered plant. The small metal tag to the right notes the plant's permanent identification number for long-term monitoring purposes. A WEST Systems fluxmeter (chamber at top) measures carbon dioxide emissions on the soil surface and a probe (black

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Color photograph of scientists
January 24, 2020

Team investigating critically endangered plant in Puhimau Thermal area

Retired USGS botanist Linda Pratt, USGS research geologists Patricia Nadeau and Jennifer Lewicki, and USGS chemist Tamar Elias (left to right) are part of a team investigating a critically endangered succulent plant, Portulaca sclerocarpa, in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park's Puhimau thermal area. Invasive species, like the broomsedge grass shown here, may contribute

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Color photographs of volcanic gas monitoring
January 23, 2020

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory volcanic gas monitoring

As fissure 8 erupts on Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone in June 2018 (left), a Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer measures gas emissions from the lava fountains. At right, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory gas geochemistry team members collect a sample of gas from Sulphur Banks in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

January 21, 2020

Kīlauea Lower East Rift Zone 2019: Quiet but insightful

In the year since Kīlauea Volcano’s notable 2018 eruption ended, the lower East Rift Zone has been relatively quiet. But USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists continue to gain insight into the eruption through ongoing research and monitoring. Some of the many questions asked by island residents include, Why did the fissures erupt along a linear pattern? How long

Color photograph showing summit of Kīlauea Volcano
January 17, 2020

Photograph of Kīlauea summit water

After days of rain, a window of clear weather allowed HVO geologists to make observations and take measurements of the water pond at Kīlauea's summit on January 17, 2020. No major changes were observed, and the water level continues to slowly rise. 

Brown pond
January 17, 2020

A close-up view of the Kilauea pond

A close-up view of the Kilauea pond shows the color variations across the surface, and sharp boundaries among zones of different color.

Four scientists work on samples at a volcano
January 17, 2020

Scientists process volcano lake water samples

After a sample was collected, HVO team members transferred water from the sampling device to plastic bottles. Team members took notes, measured water pH and evaluated water temperature data for each sample collected.   

Color photographs of scientists
January 16, 2020

HVO Scientists-in-Charge Thomas Jaggar and Tina Neal

Thomas A. Jaggar, shown at his desk circa 1925, founded the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in 1912 and served as its Director until he retired in 1940. Since then, volcano monitoring and research efforts in Hawaii have been guided by 19 scientists who have served as HVO's "Director" or "Scientist-in-Charge." In 2015, Christina Neal (inset) became HVO's most recent

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January 16, 2020

What can lava tell us? Deciphering Kīlauea’s 2018 eruption

The 2018 eruption on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone spewed around a billion cubic yards of lava into Puna. From the moment the eruption began, samples of lava were collected and rapidly analyzed by a team of USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo scientists. Geologists Cheryl Gansecki (UH-Hilo) and Lopaka Lee (USGS-HVO) discuss how their work

January 14, 2020

What’s happening at Kīlauea Volcano’s summit?

Kīlauea Volcano's summit has been in an eruptive pause since the 2018 events ended over a year ago. Nevertheless, it remains a dynamic place. Ongoing inflation and seismicity indicate that the summit magma chamber is gradually recharging. A water lake, unprecedented in the written historical record, appeared at the bottom of Halema‘uma‘u in late July 2019 and has steadily