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Volcano Watch

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

Volcano Watch — The MILEAGE project - Mapping Kīlauea’s Gas Emissions

Large quantities of volcanic gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S), are released into the atmosphere during volcanic eruptions. But even between eruptions, smaller amounts of the same gases continue to escape and can provide important clues about the current state of the volcano and the underlying magma.

Volcano Watch — How does HVO determine which regions are most threatened by lava flows?

Most residents of the Island of Hawaiʻi live on one of four potentially active volcanoes and probably have wondered about the threat of lava flows at one time or another. Interestingly, determining future threats relies on knowledge of the past. The long-term likelihood of an area being invaded by lava in the future, is estimated in two different ways based on the history of lava flow activity.

Volcano Watch — Pau or Paused? What’s the difference?

The Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake celebrated its 5-month anniversary by doing what we all like to do on our special day, taking a break. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park suggested that Kīlauea's summit eruption was getting ready for a “luana iki” or little rest, a more poetic way of describing a pause in eruptive activity.   

Volcano Watch — What defines an eruption pause?

Kīlauea’s recent volcano alert-level change, from Watch to Advisory, has attracted some attention.  

Volcano Watch — Campaign season is here! Another way HVO tracks changes on Hawaiian volcanoes

Geodetic surveys measure the change in shape of our volcanoes due to changes in magma supply and storage. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has a long history of using many different types of instruments and technologies over the decades to detect these changes.   

Volcano Watch — New Instrument Measures Lava Lake with Laser 

The night sky over Kīlauea summit lit up with the glow of lava Sunday, December 20th, 2020. Deep in the caldera, the gathered lake water was boiled by surging lava. A reddened plume escaped the crater, as lava took its place within Halemaʻumaʻu. 

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. 

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.

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 week following the detection of slight changes in ground deformation and seismicity a

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 beh

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.

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.