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Volcano awareness: an important quest for residents

December 20, 2015 - 1:30am

This time last year, Kilauea Volcano’s lava flow was threatening Pahoa. Today, the immediate danger to Puna communities no longer exists, but lava continues to erupt from the Puu Oo vent. So, while the flow is largely out of sight, it should not be totally out of mind.

During the past year, Mauna Loa began stirring, a reminder that Earth’s largest active volcano is just that — an active volcano that will someday erupt again. With seismicity and deformation of the volcano above background levels, the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory elevated the Volcano Alert Level for Mauna Loa from normal to advisory in September.

With this in mind, residents are encouraged to learn more about the volcanoes on which they live, work and play. One way to do this is by attending talks offered by HVO scientists during the seventh annual Volcano Awareness Month in January.

The schedule, including the date, time, location and brief description for each presentation, is posted on HVO’s website at or call 967-8844.

For now, here’s an overview of the talks offered by HVO scientists in January. All are free and open to the public.

Weekly “After Dark in the Park” programs in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park begin on Jan. 5 with a look at what’s happened with Kilauea Volcano’s ongoing East Rift Zone and summit eruptions during the past year. Subsequent programs on Jan. 12, 19 and 26 include an update on the current status of Mauna Loa, a discussion of lethal eruptions on Kilauea, and the story of the Mauna Loa lava flow that threatened Hilo in 1880-81, respectively. Each presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the Kilauea Visitor Center. Park entrance fees may apply.

Two talks by HVO scientists are slated for the University of Hawaii at Hilo main campus. On Jan. 7, events on Kilauea during the past year (a repeat of the Jan. 5 park program) will be presented in University Classroom Building Room 100. On Jan. 28, Mauna Loa’s current seismic state and how seismological observations have been used to forecast past eruptions will be discussed in UCB Room 127. Both talks begin at 7 p.m.

In West Hawaii, an overview of Mauna Loa, Hualalai and Kilauea volcanoes will be presented twice: Jan. 20 in the Makaeo Pavilion at the Old Kona Airport Park in Kailua-Kona and Jan. 25 in the Konawaena High School cafeteria in Kealakekua. Both begin at 6:30 p.m.

On Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m., HVO will experience a deja vu moment, albeit under much less stressful circumstances, when scientists return to the Pahoa High School cafeteria to talk about Kilauea’s Puu Oo eruption and the current status of the lava flow that threatened Pahoa in 2014-15. HVO recently received the Big Island Press Club’s “Torch of Light” award for keeping residents and media informed as the flow advanced toward Pahoa — but the efforts couldn’t have succeeded without community members who attended the many meetings held at the school and in nearby subdivisions.

Vog (volcanic air pollution), a pervasive reminder of Kilauea’s ongoing eruptions, and the results of a recent study on vog perceptions and protection will be addressed at the Ocean View Community Center in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates on Jan. 27. Start time is 6:30 p.m.

Hilo’s Lyman Museum will host two HVO programs in January. The first is a presentation on the Mauna Loa 1880-81 lava flow on Jan. 11 (repeated in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Jan. 26). It is followed by a talk on volcanic gases, vog and the environmental effects from Hawaiian volcanoes on Jan. 18. Details will soon be posted on the museum website at

Volcano awareness shouldn’t be limited to a single month on Hawaii Island, home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. But January, officially proclaimed Volcano Awareness Month in 2010, is a good time to begin or continue your quest to better understand Hawaiian volcanoes — and to meet the HVO scientists who monitor them.

Volcano activity updates

Kilauea continues to erupt at its summit and East Rift Zone. The summit lava lake remains active within the Halemaumau Crater vent, with the lake level at about 125 feet below the vent rim on Thursday. On the East Rift Zone, scattered lava flow activity remained within about four miles of Puu Oo.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. The seismicity rate is elevated above background levels, but has not increased over rates observed in recent months. Continuous GPS measurements continue to show deformation consistent with inflation of magma reservoirs beneath Mauna Loa.

Two earthquakes were reported felt on Hawaii Island in the past week. On Monday at 12:19 a.m., a magnitude-2.6 earthquake occurred five miles northwest of Captain Cook at a depth of seven-and-eight-tenths miles. On Wednesday at 12:23 p.m., a magnitude-3.9 earthquake occurred nine-and-four-tenths miles west of Kalapana at a depth of four-and-sixth-tenths miles.

Info:, 967-8862 (Kilauea), 967-8866 (Mauna Loa)

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

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