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Senate Passes Bill to Strengthen Volcano Monitoring Capabilities

May 17, 2018, 12:31 PM HST
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Sens. Mazie K. Hirono, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) secured the passage of S. 346, the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act. This legislation improves the nation’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities to help keep communities and travelers safe.

Fissures in Leilani Estates. Click to enlarge. (USGS Photo)

“Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are working around the clock to provide critical, up-to-date information to keep Hawai‘i Island residents safe,” Sen. Hirono said. “This bipartisan bill supports their important efforts by updating and unifying the five volcano observatories across the nation and creating a grant program to support monitoring research and technology development.”

“Volcanic eruptions, like the one in Hawai‘i and the one earlier this month at Cleveland Volcano in Alaska, are vivid reminders of why it is so critical to have continuous and reliable monitoring systems,” Sen. Murkowski said. “I hope the House of Representatives will move quickly to approve this timely legislation so that we can ensure the U.S. Geological Survey has the resources it needs to strengthen our monitoring, warning, and response capabilities.”

“This bill connects needed volcano monitoring systems in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Washingtonians remember the impact the Mt. St. Helens eruption had on our communities 38 years ago,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Our state has five of the highest threat volcanoes in the nation, and as we’re seeing in Hawai‘i right now, these volcanoes are a persistent and serious threat. The safety of our communities is paramount, and our legislation will ensure we have the science, technology, and monitoring needed to keep people informed and safe.”

346 strengthens existing volcano monitoring systems, which include the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Alaska Volcano Observatory, and the Cascades Volcano Observatory, and would unify 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 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, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, for more than a century.

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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, such as the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawai‘i.

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Sen. Hirono published resources and information from government agencies on her website for Hawai‘i residents affected by recent natural disasters. This page includes instructions for replacing important documents and updated information on federal services in impacted communities.

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