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2019 Kīlauea Disaster Supplemental Funding: Eruption Response, LiDAR

Through the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 (H.R. 2157), the USGS received Supplemental funding to support recovery and rebuilding activities in the wake of the 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruption. As part of eruption response bolstering, USGS acquired new LiDAR data and high-resolution aerial photos.

Kīlauea that will be covered by a helicopter lidar survey in June 2019
Areas on Kīlauea covered by a helicopter lidar survey in June 2019. Red lines enclose areas over which the survey helicopter flew at 396 m (1,300 ft) above ground level. Green lines enclose areas over which the helicopter flew at 151 m (500 ft) above ground level.

The topography and shoreline of Kīlauea’s summit and East Rift Zone changed dramatically during the 2018 eruption, leaving previous Digital Elevation Models obsolete. The USGS used a helicopter-based platform to acquire new LiDAR data and high-resolution aerial photos covering approximately 220 square miles of land affected by the eruption.  New DEMs and orthophotos from this dataset will support myriad investigations including: 1) Determine changes to the summit and East Rift Zone areas when magma begins refilling the shallow magma chamber, 2) Define probabilistic lava flow paths in the Lower East Rift Zone, and 3) aid County, State and Federal officials with disaster recovery and long-term planning. 

Activity Description/Goal: 

Acquire new LiDAR data and high-resolution aerial photos of areas affected by eruption. 

Key Successes/Outcomes:

Use of the 2019 topographic dataset for a final analysis of the subaerial lava thicknesses and total volume emplaced during the Kīlauea 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption.  

  • Use of the 2019 topographic dataset for near-real-time analyses of lava-lake volumes and vent effusion rates during the 12/2020–5/2021 Kīlauea summit eruption. This enabled HVO to accurately characterize eruptive trends for partner agencies including Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense, and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency - giving decision makers improved situational awareness of the hazards and potential risks posed by the eruption. 

  • Use of the 2019 topographic dataset, in conjunction with older topographic models for surrounding areas, to analyze potential lava-flow paths from future eruptions across the updated topography.