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Hirono Introduces Bill to Strengthen Volcano Monitoring

February 28, 2017, 12:24 PM HST
* Updated February 28, 12:28 PM
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Halema‘uma‘u Crater as seen from Volcano House on Saturday night, just following the explosion. Volcano House is approximately two miles away from the vent. NPS Photo/Sami Steinkamp.

Sens. Mazie K. Hirono, Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) recently introduced legislation to improve volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities that help keep communities and travelers safe.

“For the past 34 years, we have experienced first-hand the threat of volcanic activity to our daily lives with the ongoing eruption at Kilauea,” said Sen. Hirono. “As recently as 2014, we had evacuations and damage to critical infrastructure and residences. This bipartisan bill is important as it updates and unifies the five volcano observatories across the nation and creates a grant program that will support critical monitoring research and technology development that will be used to save lives.”

The bill, S. 346, strengthens existing volcano monitoring systems, which include the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Alaska Volcano Observatory and the Cascades Volcano Observatory, by unifying them into a single connected system called the National Volcano Early Warning System.

These observatories monitor, warn, and help protect citizens and travelers from volcanic activity, particularly from high-threat volcanoes.

The bill also creates a Volcano Watch Office that will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to provide continuous situational awareness of all active volcanoes in the U.S. and its territories.

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The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory located on Hawai‘i Island was the first volcano observatory in the United States and has been monitoring volcanoes, including the two most active—Kilauea and Mauna Loa, for more than a century. Additional and modern monitoring and science is needed to help protect communities living near these volcanoes.

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