East Hawaii News

Visiting Scientists Learning the Ways of Active Volcanoes

July 2, 2014, 5:36 PM HST
* Updated July 2, 5:38 PM
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Kilauea, which has been described as the “drive-up” volcano because of its ease of access, is the venue this week for lessons in the monitoring of active volcanoes.

The teachers are Big Island scientists, and the students are scientists and technicians from 11 nations.

Organized by the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, with support from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa and the joint USGS-U.S. Agency for International Development Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, the annual program has been training foreign scientists for 24 years.

Taking part in this year’s class hosted by the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are 16 volcano scientists from Chile, Colombia Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Italy, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

The visiting scientists are being shown the use and maintenance of volcanic monitoring instruments, data analysis and other means of reducing the risks from eruptions.

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“Participants learn about forecasting events, responding rapidly during volcanic crises, and how to work with governing officials and the news media to save lives and property,” HVO officials said in a press release.

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The program includes field exercises on both Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.

“Hawaiian volcanoes offer an excellent teaching opportunity because our volcanoes are relatively accessible, they’re active, and USGS staff scientists can teach while actually monitoring volcanic activity,” said HVO Scientist-in-Charge, Jim Kauahikaua. “The small investment we make in training international scientists now goes a long way toward mitigating large volcanic disasters in the future.”

Don Thomas, director of the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, said the training is the most efficient strategy for reducing losses and saving lives for those developing nations exposed to high volcanic hazards risks.

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“The goal of our course is to provide our trainees with an understanding of the technologies that can be applied to an assessment of volcanic threats as well as how to interface with their respective communities to increase awareness of how to respond to those threats,” Thomas said.

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