When a volcano erupts, there can be global ripples caused by interruptions of air travel, agriculture, and tourism. One way to keep everyone secure is to ensure that volcano observatories around the world have the expertise and resources to detect and forecast volcanic activity, and can provide useful warnings and messages used by both local and global populations.
Two scientists from the USGS Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP is funded largely by USAID) penned a short overview of ways that different entities such as academia, governments, NGOs, and the global insurance industry can work together to bolster global resilience to volcanic disasters through support of front-line science institutions, like volcano observatories.
The article, Volcano observatories reduce risk around the globe. Here's how we can support them, delves into topics such as infrastructure donation, research and operational motives, and training of observatory staff, while maintaining the key goal of supporting the autonomy and authoritative role of the local observatory.
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The potential for damaging earthquakes, landslides, floods, tsunamis, and wildfires is widely recognized in California. The same cannot be said for volcanic hazards, despite the fact that eruptions occur in the state about as frequently as the largest earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault in San Francisco. At least ten volcanic eruptions have taken place in California in the past 1,000 years—most recent is the Lassen Peak eruption of 1914 to 1917 in Northern California—and future volcanic eruptions are inevitable. Based on the record of volcanism over the last few millennia, the likelihood of another eruption occurring in California in the next 30 years is about 16 percent.
A new 2019 report, "California's Exposure to Volcanic Hazards", prepared in collaboration with the State of California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and the California Geological Survey (CGS), provides a broad perspective on the State's exposure to volcanic hazards by integrating volcanic hazard information with geospatial data on at-risk populations, infrastructure, and resources. The information in this report is intended to prompt follow-up site and sector specific vulnerability analysis and improved hazard mitigation, disaster planning, and response protocols.
Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic unrest at 44 U.S. volcanoes. When erupting, all volcanoes pose a degree of risk to people and infrastructure. However, the risks are not equivalent from one volcano to another because of differences in eruptive style and geographic location.
The USGS assesses active and potentially active volcanoes in the U.S., focusing on history, hazards and the exposure of people, property and infrastructure to harm during the next eruption. We use 24 factors to obtain a score and threat ranking for each volcano that is deemed potentially eruptable. The findings are published in the 2018 Update to the U.S. Geological Survey National Volcanic Threat Assessment.
The update names 18 very high threat, 39 high threat, 49 moderate threat, 34 low threat, and 21 very low threat volcanoes. The volcanoes are in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The threat ranking is not an indication of which volcano will erupt next. Rather, it indicates how severe the impacts might be from future eruptions at any given volcano.
The volcanic threat assessment helps prioritize U.S. volcanoes for research, hazard assessment, emergency planning, and volcano monitoring. It is a way to help focus attention and resources where they can be most effective, guiding the decision-making process on where to build or strengthen volcano monitoring networks and where more work is needed on emergency preparedness and response.
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Eruptions of lava in the Lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano began late afternoon on May 3 in a part of Leilani Estates subdivision. Over the course of the eruption, 24 fissures have erupted lava. Fissure 8 was the dominant source of lava that feed channelized lava flows reaching to the eastern shore at Kapoho. Lava ceased erupting on August 2, and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists are considering this a pause.
Collapse events and high seismicity at KILAUEA summit have diminished with the change of activity in the lower East Rift Zone.
Hawaii County Civil Defense is coordinating notifications for public safety. USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists are monitoring various data 24/7. Check the Kīlauea webpages for new information (updates, photos, maps). Updates will be sent out as new information is gathered and if new outbreaks of lava occur.
Scientists within the USGS Volcano Hazards Program operate from within five U.S. volcano observatories. One of the primary goals of the observatories is to be an authoritative source for enlightening information about our Nation's volcanoes.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the oldest of the five, has a long history of writing regular articles about volcanic activity and scientific research on the Hawaiian volcanoes. HVO's weekly article, "Volcano Watch," entered its 27th year of publication in November 2017. The entire catalog of articles can be accessed and searched on their website. New articles are published every Thursday afternoon.
Taking lead from HVO, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO), the newest of the five observatories, began a weekly article on the first day of 2018. This new column—the "Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles"—is posted each Monday on the homepage of YVO's website . Like HVO's Volcano Watch series, the YVO Chronicles are peer-reviewed and edited before publication.
If you are interested in learning more about a specific topic related to Yellowstone or Hawaiian volcanism, please contact us. We will certainly answer, and you may see a longer-winded answer in a future Volcano Watch or Yellowstone Caldera Chronicle article.
The USGS National Center in Reston, Virginia is hosting a collection of large-format photographs and geologic maps of several of the Nation's volcanoes. The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. through January 31, 2018.
Geologic map are labors of love for the USGS geologists who create them. For volcanologists, the goal is to reconstruct a volcano's eruption history back as far as a million years to determine the size and variety of hazardous phenomena that the volcano is capable of producing. This research leads to a better understanding of how volcanic eruptions start and end, and it informs USGS volcanologists about the required level of monitoring necessary at each volcano.
Mapping volcanoes involves meticulous fieldwork in rugged terrain and variable weather to define groups of volcanic deposits. Scientists preform careful laboratory work to determine the ages and chemistry of those depositional units. It can take up to 30 years to thoroughly research and publish a geologic map of a large volcanic complex.
Many of the volcanoes featured in the exhibit were the subject of a series of in depth field guides published throughout 2017. These guides can be downloaded and freely used to learn more about the geology and hazards of volcanic landscapes in the U.S.If you cannot visit the USGS National Center in person, you can view a gallery of images showcased in the exhibit.
A documentary video about KILAUEA Volcano in HAWAII, with behind-the-scenes imagery of publicly inaccessible areas, is available from the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Through historical photos of past HALEMAUMAU eruptions and stunning 4K imagery of the current eruption, this 24-minute program tells the story of KILAUEA Volcano's summit lava lake—now one of the two largest lava lakes in the world. It begins with a Hawaiian chant that expresses traditional observations of a bubbling lava lake and reflects the connections between science and culture that continue on KILAUEA today.
The video briefly recounts the eruptive history of HALEMAUMAU and describes the formation and continued growth of the current summit vent and lava lake. It features USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists sharing their insights on the summit eruption—how they monitor the lava lake, how and why the lake level rises and falls, why explosive events occur, the connection between KILAUEA's ongoing summit and East Rift Zone eruptions, and the impacts of the summit eruption on the Island of HAWAII and beyond.
In March 2008, a new volcanic vent opened within HALEMAUMAU, a crater at the summit of KILAUEA Volcano in HAWAII Volcanoes National Park on the Island of HAWAII. This new vent is one of two ongoing eruptions on the volcano. The other is on KILAUEA's East Rift Zone, where vents have been erupting nearly nonstop since 1983. The duration of these simultaneous summit and rift-zone eruptions on KILAUEA is unmatched in at least 200 years.
Since 2008, KILAUEA's summit eruption has consisted of continuous degassing, occasional explosive events, and an active, circulating lava lake. Because of ongoing volcanic hazards associated with the summit vent, including the emission of high levels of sulfur dioxide gas and fragments of hot lava and rock explosively hurled onto the crater rim, the area around HALEMAUMAU remains closed to the public as of 2017.The new video documentary is published as USGS General Interest Publication 182, and is available on the USGS Youtube channel.
For the month of May, residents in the State of Washington will have the opportunity to become more familiar with volcano hazards in their communities and learn about steps they can take to reduce potential impacts. The USGS in cooperation with Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington Emergency Management Division, and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network have created a variety of products and programs to bring awareness to the state's five main potentially active volcanoes.
May is also the month to commemorate the May 18, 1980 catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens, which not only caused massive destruction and loss of life but also became a catalyst for a new era of unprecedented scientific discovery, technology development and community awareness. Follow USGS Volcanoes on Facebook or Twitter to see photographs and news articles and read eye-witness accounts of events as they unfolded 37 years ago.Read the full USGS Press Release to learn more about events.
In April, USGS Alaska Volcano Observatory scientists will deploy two hydrophones near Bogoslof volcano to record eruptive activity, which has been in a state of elevated volcanic unrest since December 21, 2016. The hydrophones will be on loan from the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Newport, Oregon, and are capable of continuous recording for over 18 months. AVO has no ground-based volcano monitoring equipment on Bogoslof volcano. The nearest seismic and infrasound monitoring stations are over 50 km (30 mi) away on nearby islands, so these local recordings will provide valuable information on the shallow submarine activity from Bogoslof.
In early March, a delegation of Japanese officials met with scientists of the USGS-Cascades Volcano Observatory and Volcano Disaster Assistance Program to learn more about the National Incident Management System (NIMS), a FEMA program that can be called upon to respond to disasters in the US. The group discussed the NIMS organizational structure and how it might supplement Japan's current warning and evacuation systems and emergency response measures.
Our mission is to enhance public safety and minimize social and economic disruption from volcanic events. One way we reach this goal is to work with other federal and local government agencies to develop and exercise emergency response plans. These plans define the responsibilities and coordinated actions of various government agencies in dealing with a volcanic event. From time to time, representatives from coordinating organizations get together to test how we will respond to a specific volcanic scenario. This tests our response capabilities and allows agency partners to work together in a crisis-like environment.
In February, the Cascades Volcano Observatory scientists will join federal, state, and local partners in a full-day table top exercise of the Mount St. Helens Spirit Lake Response Plan, to be held at the Cowlitz County Convention Center in Longview, WA. The objective of this exercise is to test federal response protocols at Spirit Lake during ramp-up and failure of the natural blockage that contains Spirit Lake, adjacent to Mount St. Helens. Washington Emergency Management Division, Cowlitz County, and local response agencies will test activation of their Emergency Response Plans and evacuation protocols.More information about:
The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, in cooperation with HAWAII Volcanoes National Park and the University of HAWAII at Hilo will provide a month-long series of programs about the volcanoes on the Island of HAWAII. A schedule of events on the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website includes information about where and when residents and visitors to the Island can participate in programs focused on living in harmony with active Hawaiian volcanoes.
January 3, 2017, also marks the anniversary of KILAUEA Volcano's ongoing East Rift Zone eruption, which began in 1983. During the past 34 years, lava flows have buried over 142 km2 (55 mi2) of public and private land, destroying 215 structures and vast tracts of native forest. This destruction reminds us why it's important to be aware of how Hawaiian volcanoes work.
Scientists from 20 volcano observatories around the globe gathered in Vancouver, Washington, November 15-18, 2016, to share their experiences in monitoring volcanoes and communicating volcanic hazards. This was the third Volcano Observatory Best Practices workshop (VOBP3) convened by the USGS Volcano Hazards Program, Volcano Disaster Assistance Program and Italy's Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia.
The topic of discussion at VOBP3 was volcano hazard assessments—modeling and forecasting volcano hazards, estimating and representing uncertainties, and meeting the needs of decision makers and stakeholders. The shared view is that the next generation of hazard assessments must convey the impacts of volcanic events on people and infrastructure, and include a portfolio of products (from technical to illustrative) to meet the needs of scientists, emergency managers, public officials and people impacted by volcanoes. Participants will work toward developing hazard-assessment guidelines that include practical solutions to mitigate risk and build resiliency in at-risk communities.
There are approximately 1,550 potentially active volcanoes around the world. 2016 marks the 30th year that the Volcano Disaster Assistance program (VDAP) has worked to reduce loss of life and property, limit economic impact and prevent volcanic crises from becoming disasters. The USGS and U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) established VDAP in 1986 in response to the tragic eruption of Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia, which killed more than 23,000 people from volcanic mudflows. Since then, VDAP scientific teams have deployed in response to 30 major crises, assisted counterparts with hundreds of additional volcanic events, and strengthened response capacity in 12 countries since the program began.
To recognize the milestone, the USGS is highlighting some of the major responses, showing how the program has helped save countless lives. Read the USGS Top Story to learn how VDAP works to support international scientists and agencies at the invitation of a host country.
The world's largest volcanic eruption in the past 100 years is the June 15, 1991, eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Several bursts of gas-charged magma exploded into umbrella ash clouds, hot flows of gas and ash descended the volcano's flanks and lahars swept down valleys. The collaborative work of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology saved more than 5,000 lives and $250 million in property by forecasting the eruption in time to evacuate local residents and the U.S. Clark Air Base.
As in 1991, the USGS continues to be supported by USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, providing scientific assistance to countries around the world though VDAP, the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. The program and its partners respond to volcanic unrest, build monitoring infrastructure, assess hazards and vulnerability, and improve understanding of eruptive processes and forecasting to prevent natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, from becoming human tragedies. Read more about the Mount Pinatubo 1991 eruption.
In 2016, the US—Colombia Binational Exchange will bring together emergency managers, first responders, planners, and other non–scientific personnel from the two countries who have a role in volcano hazards mitigation. Participants will engage in face–to–face forums to share experience and best practices. Building upon the successes and lessons learned during similar exchanges in 2013 and 2015, small groups will participate in targeted sessions throughout the year, which will culminate in an international exchange this Fall.
While visiting partner countries, scientists and public officials will get a firsthand view of the effects of volcanic hazards, observe mitigation and response strategies used by communities facing similar threats, and devote discussions to cooperative planning within their home communities. To date, these exchanges have led to the development of multiple local initiatives such as creating websites devoted to volcano hazard awareness and preparation, installation of interpretive signage, creating maps of evacuation routes, as well as developing cohesiveness among emergency management staff and cooperative organizations. The program was developed by the USGS–USAID Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) and the USGS Volcano Science Center.
January 2016 is HawaiÊ"i Island's 7th annual "Volcano Awareness Month." With two ongoing eruptions on KÄ"lauea and recent increase in activity at Mauna Loa, awareness is more essential than ever for us to live in harmony with the active volcanoes that are our island home.
The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, in cooperation with HawaiÊ"i Volcanoes National Park and the University of HawaiÊ"i at Hilo will provide a month-long series of programs about Hawaiian volcanoes. Visit the HVO website to learn more about the events and see the latest status, photos, webcam images, and videos.