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VOLCANO WATCH: Volcano Awareness

December 18, 2015, 8:07 AM HST
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Lava, like this typical pāhoehoe flow on Nov. 12, 2015, continues to breakout northeast of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō (in background) on Kīlauea Volcano. Current activity is within about 6 km (4 mi) of the vent and poses no immediate threat to Puna communities. USGS photo.

Lava, like this typical pāhoehoe flow on Nov. 12, 2015, continues to breakout northeast of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō (in background) on Kīlauea Volcano. Current activity is within about 6 km (4 mi) of the vent and poses no immediate threat to Puna communities. USGS photo.

This time last year, Kilauea Volcano’s lava flow was threatening Pahoa. Today, the immediate danger to Puna communities no longer exists, but lava continues to erupt from the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent. So, while the flow is largely out of sight, it should not be totally out of mind.

During the past year, Mauna Loa began stirring, a reminder that Earth’s largest active volcano is just that—an active volcano that will someday erupt again. With seismicity and deformation of the volcano above background levels, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) elevated the Volcano Alert Level for Mauna Loa from NORMAL to ADVISORY in September 2015.

With this in mind, Island of Hawai‘i residents are encouraged to learn more about the volcanoes on which they live, work, and play. One way to do this is by attending upcoming talks offered by HVO scientists during our island’s 7th annual Volcano Awareness Month in January 2016.

The Volcano Awareness Month schedule, including the date, time, location, and brief description for each presentation, is posted on HVO’s website—or you can call 808-967-8844 for more information.

For now, here’s an overview of the talks offered by HVO scientists in January 2016. All are free and open to the public.

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Weekly “After Dark in the Park” programs in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park begin on Jan. 5 with a look at what’s happened with KilaueaVolcano’s ongoing East Rift Zone and summit eruptions during the past year. Subsequent Tuesday evening programs on Jan. 12, 19, and 26 include an update on the current status of Mauna Loa, a discussion of lethal eruptions on Kilauea, and the story of the Mauna Loa lava flow that threatened Hilo in 1880-1881, respectively. Each presentation begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Kīlauea Visitor Center (Park entrance fees may apply).

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Two Thursday evening talks by HVO scientists are slated for the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo main campus. On Jan. 7, events on Kilauea during the past year (a repeat of the Jan. 5 Park program) will be presented in University Classroom Building (UCB) Room 100. On Jan. 28, Mauna Loa’s current seismic state and how seismological observations have been used to forecast past eruptions will be discussed in UCB Room 127. Both talks begin at 7:00 p.m.

In West Hawai‘i, an overview of Mauna Loa, Hualālai, and Kilauea volcanoes will be presented twice:  On Wednesday, Jan. 20, in the Maka‘eo Pavilion at the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area in Kailua-Kona, and on Monday, Jan. 25, in the Konawaena High School cafeteria in Kealakekua.  Both begin at 6:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Jan. 21, at 6:30 p.m., HVO will experience a déjà vu moment, albeit under much less stressful circumstances, when we return to the Pahoa High School cafeteria to talk about Kilauea Volcano’s Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption and the current status of the lava flow that threatened Pahoa in 2014-2015. HVO recently received the Big Island Press Club’s “Torch of Light” award for keeping residents and media informed as the flow advanced toward Pahoa—but our efforts couldn’t have succeeded without community members who attended the many meetings held at the school and in nearby subdivisions.

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Vog (volcanic air pollution), a pervasive reminder of Kilauea Volcano’s ongoing eruptions, and the results of a recent study on vog perceptions and protection will be addressed at the Ocean View Community Center in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Start time is 6:30 p.m.

Hilo’s Lyman Museum will host two HVO programs in January. The first is a presentation on the Mauna Loa 1880-1881 lava flow on Jan. 11(repeated in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Jan. 26). It is followed by a talk on volcanic gases, vog, and the environmental effects from Hawaiian volcanoes on Jan. 18. Details will soon be posted on the museum website.

Volcano awareness shouldn’t be limited to a single month on Hawai‘i Island, home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. But January, officially proclaimed Volcano Awareness Month in 2010, is a good time to begin or continue your quest to better understand Hawaiian volcanoes—and to meet the HVO scientists who monitor them. We hope to see you at one or more of our talks in January 2016!

Volcano Activity Updates

Kiauea continues to erupt at its summit and East Rift Zone. The summit lava lake remains active within the Halema‘uma‘u Crater vent, with the lake level at about 38 m (125 ft) below the vent rim on December 17. On the East Rift Zone, scattered lava flow activity remained within about 6 km (4 mi) of Puʻu ʻŌʻō.  

Mauna Loa is not erupting. The seismicity rate is elevated above background levels, but has not increased over rates observed in recent months. Continuous GPS measurements continue to show deformation consistent with inflation of magma reservoirs beneath Mauna Loa.

Two earthquakes were reported felt on the Island of Hawai‘i in the past week. On Monday, December 14, 2015, at 12:19 a.m., HST, a magnitude-2.6 earthquake occurred 8.0 km (5.0 mi) northwest of Captain Cook at a depth of 12.5 km (7.8 mi). On Wednesday, December 16, 2015, at 12:23 p.m., HST, a magnitude-3.9 earthquake occurred 15.2 km (9.4 mi) west of Kalapana at a depth of 7.3 km (4.6 mi).

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey`s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

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