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: May 13, 2021

Volcano Watch — How are lava levels and volumes measured at the Kīlauea summit lava lake?

Kīlauea’s summit lava lake in Halemaʻumaʻu is approaching its five-month anniversary on Thursday, May 20, while the water lake that occupied the crater for the previous seventeen months seems like a distant memory. 

Date published: May 6, 2021

Volcano Watch — Tiny changes at Mauna Loa’s summit hold big clues

Although Mauna Loa is Earth’s largest active volcano, it has lived in the shadow of Kīlauea since it last erupted in 1984.  The geologic record shows that Mauna Loa erupts every seven years on average; however, 37 years have passed since lava flows from the volcano’s Northeast Rift Zone came within 7 km (4 miles) of Hilo. 

Date published: April 29, 2021

Volcano Watch — The rise and fall of lava lakes

May 3rd marks three years since the start of the devastating lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kīlauea. In 2018, rising summit lava lake levels, caused by building magmatic pressure, culminated in a large eruption on the lower flank which then abruptly drained the summit lava lake and initiated crater collapse.

Date published: April 22, 2021

Volcano Watch — How measuring gravity on Mauna Kea helps us monitor Mauna Loa

Gravimeters, essentially extremely precise pendulums, can measure a change in the force of gravity to one-in-one billionth of the force you feel every day. This force varies based on the distance and the amount of mass between the instrument (or you) and the center of the Earth.

Date published: April 15, 2021

Volcano Watch — Kīlauea’s other rift zone—Young activity in the Southwest Rift Zone

It is no secret that the Island of Hawaiʻi is home to fantastic volcanic features, many of which have been created during eruptions of Kīlauea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai since 1800. 

Date published: April 8, 2021

Volcano Watch — What’s that (seismic) noise?

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) uses dozens of seismometers to locate individual earthquakes and identify signals that are related to faulting and magma movement within our volcanoes.

Date published: April 1, 2021

Volcano Watch — The lava lakes of Kīlauea then and now

One of the most interesting aspects of the current activity in Halemaʻumaʻu is the occasional oozing of lava around the edges of the entire crater while the lava surface is rising. Has that phenomenon been reported before in any accounts of previous Kīlauea activity?  

Date published: March 25, 2021

Volcano Watch — Aerial photographs and volcanic ash: Looking back to move forward

A new project at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) is once again making use of old aerial photographs and field notes that were used to make geologic and hazard maps. Buried within hundreds of old mapping photos and field notes are the locations and thicknesses of several ash deposits on the flanks of Mauna Loa that have never been fully quantified. 

Date published: March 18, 2021

Volcano Watch — Using the ocean to track volcanic activity at Kīlauea

Ocean swells occur continuously around the world. As these swells rise and fall, they couple with the ocean floor below them creating a constant signal. These signals, called oceanic microseisms, travel through the solid earth and are observed at the surface using instruments called seismometers.  

Date published: March 11, 2021

Volcano Watch — “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Mauna Loa has been in the news lately, as the volcano continues to awaken from its slumber. While an eruption of Mauna Loa is not imminent, now is the time to revisit personal eruption plans.  Similar to preparing for hurricane season, having an eruption plan in advance helps during an emergency.

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...

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...