Volcano Watch: Fostering prepared youths on the natural hazards of backyard volcanoes
“Volcano Watch” is a weekly article and activity update written by U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and affiliates. This week’s article was written by Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes staff Darcy Bevens and Meghann Decker.
During volcanic crises, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory plays a pivotal role, sharing information about activity and associated hazards with close partners on the Island of Hawai‘i, including the mayor’s office, Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency. However, during non-crisis periods, the observatory maintains a range of lesser-known partnerships with state and county agencies.
One noteworthy collaboration is with the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes. Beyond its contributions to the center’s International Training Program, the USGS Volcano Hazards Program upholds a cooperative agreement with UH-Hilo and the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes. This agreement facilitates UH-Hilo students’ involvement in working alongside Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and technical teams dedicated to monitoring Hawaiʻi’s volcanoes.
Furthermore, it supports an active hazards outreach program geared towards educating Hawaiʻi’s keiki (children) about our natural hazards and the importance of preparedness.
To fulfill this educational mission, the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes launched an array of public outreach programs in the early 1990s, which included community seminars, teacher training workshops and school visits around the Island of Hawaiʻi. The center quickly recognized the eagerness of schoolchildren to learn about natural hazards, particularly enjoying hands-on demonstrations such as the tsunami wave tank and baking soda volcano.
The center’s outreach endeavors even extended to preschools, adhering to the adage, “If you plan for a year, plant kalo. If you plan for 10 years, plant koa. If you plan for 100 years, teach the children.”
One of the center’s goals is to educate the general public about hazards associated with volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunami. This education encompasses the scientific aspects of these hazards and strategies for mitigating risk. The center emphasizes educating children and adolescents of Hawaiʻi nei about the importance of emergency kits, evacuation plans and effective communication during disasters.
This cultural shift toward preparedness can save lives and reduce damage during hazardous events.
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated suspending face-to-face school visits. However, center staff are happy to have recently resumed in-person public outreach through classroom visits and community events. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory remains steadfast in its commitment to monitoring volcanoes in Hawaiʻi, gathering data, assessing potential hazards and disseminating information to relevant agencies and the public.
Working in tandem, the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes emphasizes the importance of educating the younger generation. By engaging and educating youths on volcanic hazards, we can create a more resilient and informed community prepared to respond to and mitigate the impact of these events.
While teaching natural hazards to schoolchildren, center staff noted that students exhibited a strong interest in science and local geology. Consequently, the outreach program expanded to include educational sessions for school groups about rocks and minerals, with a specific focus on Hawaiian volcanic products such as pāhoehoe, pumice and Pele’s Hair.
Students are encouraged to consider science, technology, engineering and math, and, at events such as Career Day for high school groups, they are recommended to explore science programs at UH-Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College.
The center efforts are supported by the UH-Hilo geology department, who facilitate mentorship to science fair participants and visiting schools. They expose students to analytical equipment and spectacular demonstrations such as the Trashcano, a simulated volcanic eruption with a 50-gallon trash can and liquid nitrogen.
Working together, the three agencies educate and inform Island of Hawaiʻi kamaʻāina. We hope to better prepare people of all ages, from keiki to tutu, for the range of natural hazards associated with volcanoes in our backyard that can potentially impact them.
Look for the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at upcoming community events such as career days, Girl Scouts STEM, the West Hawaiʻi Exploration Fair and school science nights.
To learn more, visit the center’s outreach page for more information.
Volcano Activity Updates
Kīlauea is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level is advisory.
The unrest associated with the intrusion that began in early October southwest of Kīlauea’s summit continues. An earthquake swarm located immediately south of Kīlauea’s caldera which began Nov. 10 persists with moderate levels of seismicity and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to monitor this activity. Unrest might continue to wax and wane with changes to the input of magma into the area and eruptive activity could occur in the near future with little or no warning. The most recent sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate for the summit—approximately 100 tonnes per day—was measured on Oct. 19.
Mauna Loa is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert Level is at normal.
Webcams show no signs of activity on Mauna Loa. Summit seismicity has increased slightly in the past month, while ground deformation indicates slow inflation as magma replenishes the reservoir system following the 2022 eruption. SO2 emission rates are at background levels.
No earthquakes were reported felt in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to closely monitor Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.