Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Volcano Watch

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and colleagues.

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Date published: October 22, 2020

Volcano Watch — Charcoal, a game changer for understanding processes in young volcanic terraines

One of the fundamental premises of geology is that the "key to understanding the future is to understand the past."  In order to forecast how a volcano will behave, geologists must map the deposits from past eruptions and determine the ages of those deposits. Radiocarbon dating is our principal tool of use.

Date published: October 15, 2020

Volcano Watch — Crack team of geologists measure the Koa‘e fault system

The Koa‘e fault system connects Kīlauea’s East and Southwest Rift Zones south of the caldera. Faults here appear as low cliffs, or “scarps” along Hilina Pali Road in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. These fault-cliffs slip during major earthquakes, such as those of May 4, 2018—near the beginning of Kīlauea’s 2018 eruption.

Date published: October 8, 2020

Volcano Watch — Join the Statewide Earthquake Preparedness Drill on 10/15 at 10:15

Major earthquakes cannot be predicted. Successful earthquake predictions need to have three things correct: the location, the time, and the magnitude. The best anyone can reliably do is get two out of three correct. And the most important thing for everyone to do is prepare—have a plan, build a kit, and practice drills. Join us for the ShakeOut on October 15th!

Date published: October 1, 2020

Volcano Watch — That didn’t feel like a Magnitude-4? What do earthquake measurements mean?

Residents on the Island of Hawaiʻi are accustomed to feeling earthquakes. As the ground shaking subsides and the safety of everyone around is assured, one of the first questions we typically ask is “how big was that earthquake?”

Date published: September 24, 2020

Volcano Watch — HVO’s new website is more accessible and mobile-friendly

You may have seen the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’s “Caldera Chronicles” article about their new-and-improved website, in which they hint at a change coming to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s (HVO) website, too. It’s...

Date published: September 17, 2020

Volcano Watch — HVO camera network reconfiguration and upgrades coming soon!

Over the past two decades, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has set up a camera network system to monitor visual changes at Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. This network was designed for the volcanic activity of the time and captured the two long-lived eruptions of Kīlauea at the summit and East Rift Zone up close.

Date published: September 10, 2020

Volcano Watch — On the surface of Kīlauea's new landscape, a story is told

Kīlauea's 2018 summit collapse dramatically transformed the geometry and appearance of Halema‘uma‘u crater and Kīlauea caldera. Last week's "Volcano Watch" article described how the 2018 events impacted the magma plumbing system beneath the surface of Kīlauea's summit. This week, we'll explore how the...

Date published: September 3, 2020

Volcano Watch — Underneath Kīlauea’s new landscape, the magma plumbing keeps working

Last week, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park was able to open the Kīlauea Overlook to the public for the first time since the lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse in 2018.  The viewing location offers a new perspective on the breathtaking summit collapse structures and the major changes those collapses had on Kīlauea’s landscape.  

Date published: August 27, 2020

Volcano Watch — Geodesy through time: a history of measuring the shape of Hawaiian volcanoes

Geodesy is the science of accurately measuring and understanding the Earth's geometric shape, gravity field, and orientation in space—and how these change through time. Many geodesists today map shorelines, determine land boundaries, and improve transportation and navigation.

Date published: August 20, 2020

Volcano Watch — Doppler radar in Ka‘ū: more than a weather radar

Driving Highway 11 from Volcano to Wai‘ōhinu on sunny, vog-free days, it's hard to miss that bright white soccer ball on the slope of Mauna Loa above Pāhala Town.

Date published: August 13, 2020

Volcano Watch — Water was in Kīlauea caldera before the 2018 summit collapse

On July 4, 2018, an observer at the Volcano House Hotel was watching the evolving collapse of Halema‘uma‘u Crater, 4 km (2.5 miles) away. Suddenly he did a double take, blinked a couple of times, but couldn’t erase the dark line descending the wall of Kīlauea caldera above Halema‘uma‘u. Not knowing what it was, he dubbed it the 'black streak.'

Date published: August 6, 2020

Volcano Watch — How hot is Kīlauea's summit water lake?

The recent first anniversary of the appearance of water at Kīlauea's summit is a reminder of how much has changed since the end of the 2018 eruption and summit collapse.