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: March 4, 2021

Volcano Watch — Seismicity preceding the 2020 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano

Pele returned to the summit of Kīlauea on the evening of December 20, 2020. Incredible video documents the start of the new eruption in Halema‘uma‘u and the dynamic ongoing activity. There was no significant change that suggested lava would erupt again so rapidly, but there were subtle signs of restless behavior around Kīlauea’s summit in the months prior to the eruption.   

Date published: February 25, 2021

Volcano Watch — When will Mauna Loa erupt next?

“When will Mauna Loa erupt next?” This was the title of a Volcano Awareness Month video presentation released by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) in January 2021. This was also the topic of discussion among HVO scientists last...

Date published: February 18, 2021

Volcano Watch — What’s going on at Kīlauea’s summit lava lake?

Kīlauea’s current lava lake formed on December 20th and rose rapidly within Halema‘uma‘u crater during the dynamic first week of the ongoing summit eruption. Near the end of December, the eruption stabilized and the lava lake has been slowly changing since then.

Date published: February 11, 2021

Volcano Watch — Ken Hon returns to HVO as Scientist-in-Charge

The next USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Scientist-in-Charge (SIC) has been named, and it’s a name that Island of Hawai‘i residents may be familiar with—Dr. Ken Hon! Ken will be the 21rst Scientist-in-Charge filling a position originally created by Thomas A. Jaggar, who founded HVO in 1912 and directed it until 1940. 

Date published: February 4, 2021

Volcano Watch — Kīlauea’s south flank: What’s shaking?

This story begins after Kīlauea’s May 4, 2018, M6.9 earthquake and lower East Rift Zone eruption. The M6.9 earthquake resulted in seaward motion at the surface of Kīlauea’s south flank of up to approximately 0.5 m (1.5 ft) as measured by Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring stations operated by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO).

Date published: January 28, 2021

Volcano Watch — Words matter: lava, not fire, but island or raft or basalt berg?

Words matter in volcanology just as in the rest of society. Words matter among volcanologists themselves, of course, but they particularly matter in our dealings with the public, when we attempt to both tell what is happening and educate about how volcanoes work. Accuracy of words promotes understanding and clarity of thought and is essential to both telling and educating.

Date published: January 21, 2021

Volcano Watch — A closer look at Kīlauea’s newest lava

Every rock on Earth is made of up a unique combination of chemical elements, and lavas/tephra formed during Hawaiian eruptions are no exception. What is the geochemistry of Kīlauea’s newest tephra—and how can it help us understand the processes driving the ongoing eruption

Date published: January 14, 2021

Volcano Watch — Gas math—how we know how much sulfur dioxide volcanoes emit

Volcanic gases are an important part of eruptions—they help magma to rise within the earth and erupt, they can tell us how much lava is being erupted, and the volcanic air pollution (vog) they cause can be a hazard. So it is important for the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) to measure how much of what kind of gas is being emitted by our volcanoes. 

Date published: January 7, 2021

Volcano Watch — A new tephra lab for HVO eruption monitoring

In addition to a new year and a new eruption, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) is ushering in a new era for processing and studying volcanic samples. The new lab will allow us to better understand physical properties of tephra. 

Date published: December 31, 2020

Volcano Watch — Kīlauea’s ongoing eruption: a rising lava lake

It has been an exciting week at Kīlauea Volcano as the summit eruption that began on the evening of December 20th continues. The eruption remains confined within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Monitoring data show no signs of activity migrating from the summit into the rift zones, nor indications of summit collapse like those in 2018.

Date published: December 24, 2020

Volcano Watch — A New Eruption and a New Era at Kīlauea Volcano

‘Twas the Sunday before Christmas, the eve of the winter solstice, and festive holiday lights blinked of bright red and green. And then, shortly after 9:30 p.m. HST on December 20, so did the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s (HVO’s) volcano alert level/aviation color codes for Kīlauea!

Date published: December 17, 2020

Volcano Watch — A small but notable magma intrusion at Kīlauea’s summit

The 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit caldera collapse marked the end of the 35-year-long Puʻu ʻŌʻō and 10-year-long summit lava lake eruptions, and the beginning of a new chapter in Kīlauea Volcano activity.  The volcano is continuing to behave in ways that are a response to the major events of 2018 and “the new normal” is yet to be defined.