East Hawaii News

Presentations Highlight 5th Annual Volcano Awareness Month

January 2, 2014, 6:57 PM HST
* Updated January 2, 6:58 PM
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January 2014 marks the 5th annual Volcano Awareness Month, and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory will celebrate it with a variety of presentations. Most will feature Kilauea, considered by many to be the world’s most active volcano.

Two of the talks will take place at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

On Thursday, Jan. 9, HVO geologist Don Swanson will speak on the puzzle of human footprints preserved in Kilauea ash deposits.

Kīlauea Volcano erupted violently in 1790 – its largest explosive eruption in 1,000 years – spewing ash that blanketed an extensive area downwind of the summit vent.

Swanson has spent more than a decade of field work working to answer questions about the human footprints preserved in these ash deposits.

 According to Swanson, the footprints were left by people walking on muddy volcanic ash likely deposited within several hours of the 1790 eruption, which killed as many as several hundred people.

“Probably some of the people who died during the eruption left the footprints we see today,” he said.

Swanson believes most of the people who left footprints were women and children, and he will share how he reached that conclusion and discuss the still-unanswered questions about the footprints.

Copies of a US Geological Survey fact sheet, “Kīlauea — An Explosive Volcano in Hawaiʻi,” written by Swanson and his research colleagues, will be distributed at his talk. The fact sheet is also available online here.

On Thurs., Jan. 16, University of Hawaii at Manoa volcanologist Carolyn Parcheta will present findings from her study of fissure eruptions on Kīlauea.

Fissure eruptions frequently occur on Hawaiian volcanoes and, despite being the most common style of eruption on the planet, are still not well understood.

Parcheta, in collaboration with HVO geologists, has taken on the challenge of figuring out how fissure eruptions work.

According to Parcheta, understanding what happens during a fissure eruption can help determine how magma behaves below-ground seconds to minutes before it erupts, as well as how lava creates new surface features after it is erupted.

“We are learning how magma and gas work together to form the lava fountains erupted from fissures, and how that lava then produces lava flows, spatter cones, and other features associated with fissure eruptions,” she said.

Both presentations are free and begin at 7 p.m. in the University Classroom Building, Room 100, on the UH-Hilo main campus. A campus map is available here.

Also, the next five “After Dark in the Park” Tuesday programs will feature talks from HOV personnel.

Lava flows enter the forest northeast of Puʻu `O`o, visible in the background, in this photo taken Dec. 26. USGS photo.

Lava flows enter the forest northeast of Puʻu `O`o, visible in the background, in this photo taken Dec. 26. USGS photo.

On Jan. 7, geologist Tim Orr will present “Kilauea Vocano’s East Rift Zone: 31 years and still erupting,” which will focus on the Jan. 3 anniversary of the ongoing activity.

Geologist Matt Patrick will feature “Happenings in Halemaumau: An update on Kilauea’s summit eruption” on Jan. 14.

On Jan. 21, “Earthquakes and explosions: Shocking events at Kapoho and Halemaumau in 1924” will be presented by Ben Gaddis, a retired jurist and volunteer for Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The Jan. 28 presentation will feature gas geochemists Tamar Elias and Jeff Sutton discussing “Decades of degassing: Wake up and smell the coughing!”

And wrapping up the month (and then some) will be geophysicist Mike Poland, who will present “What we don’t know about Hawaiian volcanoes.”

The “After Dark” presentations take place at 7 p.m. Tuesdays in the Kilauea Visitor Center in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. They are free, but park entrance fees apply.

Volcano presentations are also being held on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the Ocean View Community Center in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates in Ka`u and on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the NELHA Gateway Visitor Center near Kailua-Kona.

The Ka`u talk will begin at 6:30 p.m. and feature geologist Frank Trusdell speaking on “Mauna Loa: How well do you know the volcano in your backyard?”

In Kona, where the discussion begins at 5:30 p.m., HVO scientists Jim Kauahikaua and Janet Babb will speak on “From Ka`u to North Kona: Stories of lava flows and volcanic landscapes.”

The complete schedule of events is available here.

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