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2019 Kīlauea Disaster Supplemental Funding: Eruption Response, Monitoring - Cameras

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, HVO will restore and harden its network of monitoring instruments, including cameras.

HVO will restore and harden its network of real-time monitoring instruments at the summit and in critical areas along the rift zones to support early detection of magma movement and more accurate and timely characterization of hazards to Island of Hawai‘i communities and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.  Instruments lost in the eruption will be replaced, other parts of the network will be modernized, and new instruments will be added. Data from a suite of instruments measuring multiple parameters are required to provide the best warnings and forecasts of eruptive activity.  Seismometers, GPS/GNSS, tiltmeters, gas sensors, and gravimeters are needed to assess the state of the volcano.  Thermal and visual camera systems will enable HVO to monitor surface activity at the summit and lower East Rift Zone and neighboring Mauna Loa. HVO will restore and improve its capability to detect gases coming from magma rising into the system. 

Visual and Thermal Cameras 

Photograph of scientist monitoring crater lake
An HVO scientist tests a colorimeter instrument on the water lake within Halema‘uma‘u, at Kīlauea's summit. Colorimetry is the measurement of the wavelength and intensity of light. USGS photo by M. Patrick. 

Activity Description/Goal: Harden HVO visual and thermal camera monitoring capacity to enable more accurate detection and rapid characterization of hazards.  

Key Successes/Outcomes:

2019-2020 Kīlauea summit water lake: 

  • Colorimeter-tracking water lake color- some lakes exhibit color changes before erupting 
  • Time-lapse cameras documented water-color convection, variations, and sources. 

2020-21 Kīlauea summit eruption response: 

  • Continuous laser rangefinder– tracking lava lake levels in real-time 
  • High resolution handheld thermal camera – mapping lava lakes and flows 
  • Long-range handheld laser rangefinders – used to track water and lava lake levels, fountain heights, and cone and fissure dimensions 
  • 4K camcorder – capturing eruption dynamics for research 
  • Video-lapse cameras – eruption dynamics over long periods 
  • Cellular trail cameras - rapid response webcams deployed at HMM and the intrusion 
  • Next generation of thermal webcams – continuous thermal monitoring 
  • Photogrammetry computer – used to build Sfm models 


A USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist takes video of the eruption that started within Halema'uma'u crater Kīlauea summit
A USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist takes video of the eruption that started within Halema'uma'u crater, Kīlauea summit, at about 3:20 p.m. on September 29, 2021. Scientists continue to monitor the eruption and hazards from within an area of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park that remains closed to the public due to safety reasons. USGS photo taken from the south rim of Halema'uma'u by D. Downs.
Color image of lava lake temperature
This thermal image was taken during the morning overflight on September 30, 2021, and looks west across Halema‘uma‘u crater, at the summit of Kīlauea. Several fountains are emerging through the active lake surface, in addition to fountaining on the west margin of the lake. The island remains near the center of the lake, and a small portion of the western cone, active during the previous eruption earlier this year, is still exposed. USGS image by M. Patrick.


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This temporary webcam, which is located just southwest of Kīlauea summit caldera, looks south over the area of the August 2021 intrusion. The dark lava flow on the left of image (mid-ground) is where the 1982 lava flow spilled out of the south caldera.DisclaimerThe webcams are operational 24/7 and faithfully record the dark of night if there are no sources of incandescence or other lights. Thermal webcams record heat rather than light and get better views through volcanic gas. At times, clouds and rain obscure visibility. The cameras are subject to sporadic breakdown, and may not be repaired immediately. Some cameras are observing an area that is off-limits to the general public because of significant volcanic hazards.(Operated by: USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)View webcam

2021 Kīlauea summit intrusion response: 

  • Time-lapse cameras monitoring previous blind spots on Kīlauea upper east rift zone, upper southwest rift zone, and south caldera. 
  • In addition, two axis cameras have been successfully deployed to harden Mauna Loa views on the southwest rift zone and the northeast rift zone. The remaining cameras purchased are ready to be deployed, and sites are selected, including a 360˚ camera planned for the Kīlauea SWRZ and on Hualālai to monitor the radial vents region of Mauna Loa (NW flank).   A majority of these cameras are being harden and will be deployed to fill in blind spots in the monitoring coverage.  Several of the new cameras are replacing failing cameras, and others will upgrade old models that are becoming obsolete and have lower resolution.      

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