Hawai'i Volcano Blog

Volcano Watch: Hawaiʻi represented at the Cities on Volcanoes conference in Antigua, Guatemala

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“Volcano Watch” is a weekly article and activity update written by U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and affiliates. Today’s article was written by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Natalia Deligne.

In February, the volcanological community gathered for the 12th edition of Cities on Volcanoes, a conference of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior.

Left: Cities on Volcanoes 12 mid-conference field trip participants walk next to buildings of the La Reunión Golf Resort damaged by pyroclastic flows during the June 3, 2018, eruption of Fuego volcano. Fuego volcano is in the background, with a minor explosion underway and a small volcanic ash plume rising from the summit. (USGS image). Right: During the conference closing ceremony, Jim Kauahikaua was posthumously awarded the first International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior Honorary Award. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Ken Hon, center, accepted the award from the association’s IAVCEI president and secretary on behalf of Jim’s family. (Image used with permission from the Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia e Hidrología in Guatemala)

This conference series started in 1998, with Hilo as host for the third conference in 2003. Cities on Volcanoes conferences are conducted every 2 to 3 years in a city that co-exists with and is influenced by volcanism.

This year, the conference was in Antigua, Guatemala, the colonial capital of Guatemala from 1543-1773 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Three volcanoes, Fuego, Agua and Acatenango, are located near Antigua.

Fuego is quite active: minor explosions happen multiple times a day, with the resulting ash plumes visible from Antigua (quite a sight over breakfast!). Tragically, on June 3, 2018, Fuego had its largest eruption in more than 40 years, with pyroclastic flows (fast moving flows of hot gas, volcanic ash and rocks) killing hundreds of people, mostly within a single rural community on the volcano’s southeast flank.

About 650 people from around the world attended this year’s conference, including volcano observatory staff, academics from a variety of disciplines, students, emergency managers and government officials, indigenous cultural practitioners, artists and local residents.


Seven Hawaiʻi residents attended, hailing from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense and University of Hawaiʻi (Hilo and Mānoa).

Conferences such as Cities on Volcanoes allow participants to share experiences, ideas, observations and research findings. Four of the five conference days either started or ended with three or four general talks followed by a panel discussion open to the public.

Together, these sessions explored volcanology and risk reduction in Latin America and beyond, with special attention paid to the role and contributions of local and indigenous communities and emerging, more inclusive and holistic research approaches. These were conducted in English and Spanish, with simultaneous translation provided.

Most of the rest of the conference consisted of concurrent sessions, each grouped around a topic.

Participants faced a tough choice for which of the many fascinating sessions to attend, including some that were short at 5 minutes or less and other longer 12-minute talks, panel discussions, facilitated participant discussions and poster sessions that prompted engaging dialogues about specific studies, experiences and initiatives.


The Hawaiʻi contingent played an active role in the conference, including moderating and presenting in sessions such as “Lessons from recent eruptions and other crises,” “Long-term engagement and interaction between civil authorities and volcano observatories,” “The Indigenous voice in volcanology,” “Multidisciplinary investigations to unravel the structure and dynamics of active volcanic systems” and “Creating ‘volcano-ready’ communities.”

During the third day of the conference, participants could attend one of two field trips: visiting either Pacaya or Fuego volcano.

Pacaya volcano is near the capital Guatemala City. Its eruption in 2010 resulted in volcanic ash covering the city and causing significant disruption (for example, the airport was closed for nearly 5 days). Those who chose the Pacaya field trip were treated to a long hike and beautiful vistas.

The Fuego field trip focused on that volcano’s deadly June 2018 eruption. Participants visited the La Reunión Golf Resort that was evacuated prior to pyroclastic density currents sweeping through, destroying and inundating much of the resort.

This was followed by a visit to San Miguel Los Lotes, the village where hundreds of fatalities were caused by these pyroclastic density currents. Most buildings in this village are still buried under many feet and tons of deposits, with no nighttime occupancy permitted.


It was sobering and sad to walk down a cleared street near where so many perished in and near their homes.

At the end of the conference, the late Jim Kauahikaua of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was awarded the first International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior Honorary Award, along with the late Peter Hall from the Instituto Geofísico de la Escuela Politécnica Nacional (Ecuador’s volcano monitoring entity).

This award was given in recognition of Jim’s contribution and services to volcano monitoring and risk reduction, which continues to serve as an example for the entire volcanology community. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Ken Hon gave a moving tribute in Jim’s honor.

Cities on Volcanoes will return to the USA for the first time since 2003, with the 2026 edition in Bend, Ore.

Volcano Activity Updates

Kīlauea is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level is Advisory.

Because of continued low rates of seismicity, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on March 5 switched from daily to weekly Kīlauea updates. Updates will be issued Tuesdays until further notice.

Low levels of disbursed seismicity at Kīlauea’s summit and along the Koa‘e fault system southwest of the caldera continue; on average, earthquake counts remain at less than 10 per day. Tiltmeters near Sand Hill and Uēkahuna bluff have continued to record very mild inflationary trends during the past week. No unusual activity has been noted along the rift zones.

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 remained at low levels during the past month. Ground deformation indicates continuing slow inflation as magma replenishes the reservoir system following the 2022 eruption. Sulfur dioxide emission rates are at background levels.

One earthquake was reported felt in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: a magnitude-2.1 earthquake just west-southwest of Pāhala at a depth of 19 miles March 5 at 8:54 a.m.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to closely monitor Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

Visit the observatory’s website for past “Volcano Watch” articles, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake information and more. Email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

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