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Coordinating science during an eruption: Lessons from the 2020–2021 Kīlauea volcanic eruption

April 14, 2023

Data collected during well-observed eruptions can lead to dramatic increases in our understanding of volcanic processes. However, the necessary prioritization of public safety and hazard mitigation during a crisis means that scientific opportunities may be sacrificed. Thus, maximizing the scientific gains from eruptions requires improved planning and coordinating science activities among governmental organizations and academia before and during volcanic eruptions. One tool to facilitate this coordination is a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). In the USA, the Community Network for Volcanic Eruption Response (CONVERSE) has been developing and testing this concept during workshops and scenario-based activities. The December 2020 eruption of Kīlauea volcano, Hawaii, provided an opportunity to test and refine this model in real-time and in a real-world setting. We present here the working model of a SAC developed during this eruption. Successes of the Kīlauea SAC (K-SAC) included broadening the pool of scientists involved in eruption response and developing and codifying procedures that may form the basis of operation for future SACs. Challenges encountered by the K-SAC included a process of review and facilitation of research proposals that was too slow to include outside participation in the early parts of the eruption and a decision process that fell on a small number of individuals at the responding volcano observatory. Possible ways to address these challenges include (1) supporting community-building activities between eruptions that make connections among scientists within and outside formal observatories, (2) identifying key science questions and pre-planning science activities, which would facilitate more rapid implementation across a broader scientific group, and (3) continued dialog among observatory scientists, emergency responders, and non-observatory scientists about the role of SACs. The SAC model holds promise to become an integral part of future efforts, leading in the short and longer term to more effective hazard response and greater scientific discovery and understanding.

Publication Year 2023
Title Coordinating science during an eruption: Lessons from the 2020–2021 Kīlauea volcanic eruption
DOI 10.1007/s00445-023-01644-1
Authors Kari M. Cooper, Kyle R. Anderson, Kathy Cashman, Michelle L. Coombs, Hannah R. Dietterich, Tobias Fischer, Bruce F. Houghton, Ingrid Johanson, Kendra J. Lynn, Michael Manga, Christelle Wauthier
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of Volcanology
Index ID 70243044
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center