One hundred volatile years of volcanic gas studies at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
The first volcanic gas studies in Hawai‘i, beginning in 1912, established that volatile emissions from Kīlauea Volcano contained mostly water vapor, in addition to carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. This straightforward discovery overturned a popular volatile theory of the day and, in the same action, helped affirm Thomas A. Jaggar, Jr.’s, vision of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) as a preeminent place to study volcanic processes. Decades later, the environmental movement produced a watershed of quantitative analytical tools that, after being tested at Kīlauea, became part of the regular monitoring effort at HVO. The resulting volatile emission and fumarole chemistry datasets are some of the most extensive on the planet. These data indicate that magma from the mantle enters the shallow magmatic system of Kīlauea sufficiently oversaturated in CO2 to produce turbulent flow. Passive degassing at Kīlauea’s summit that occurred from 1983 through 2007 yielded CO2-depleted, but SO2- and H2O-rich, rift eruptive gases. Beginning with the 2008 summit eruption, magma reaching the East Rift Zone eruption site became depleted of much of its volatile content at the summit eruptive vent before transport to Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō. The volatile emissions of Hawaiian volcanoes are halogen-poor, relative to those of other basaltic systems. Information gained regarding intrinsic gas solubilities at Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, as well as the pressure-controlled nature of gas release, have provided useful tools for tracking eruptive activity. Regular CO2-emission-rate measurements at Kīlauea’s summit, together with surface-deformation and other data, detected an increase in deep magma supply more than a year before a corresponding surge in effusive activity. Correspondingly, HVO routinely uses SO2 emissions to study shallow eruptive processes and effusion rates. HVO gas studies and Kīlauea’s long-running East Rift Zone eruption also demonstrate that volatile emissions can be a substantial volcanic hazard in Hawai‘i. From its humble beginning, trying to determine the chemical composition of volcanic gases over a century ago, HVO has evolved to routinely use real-time gas chemistry to track eruptive processes, as well as hazards.
|One hundred volatile years of volcanic gas studies at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
|A.J. Sutton, Tamar Elias
|USGS Numbered Series
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Hawaiian Volcano Observatory; Volcano Hazards Program; Volcano Science Center