Volcano Watch: January is Volcano Awareness Month

  • Kilauea Volcano’s 2018 summit collapse, shown here on July 28 (left), and the lower East Rift Zone fissure 8 lava flow, shown here on July 2 (right), will be the focus of “Volcano Awareness Month” talks offered in January 2019. (Photo courtesy / USGS)

VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK — January 2019 marks the 10th annual “Volcano Awareness Month” on the Island of Hawaii.

Launched in 2010, “Volcano Awareness Month” is one way that the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) promotes the importance of understanding the volcanoes on which we live. This past summer’s volcanic activity on Kilauea — collapses within the summit caldera and a destructive lava flow on the lower East Rift Zone — certainly underscore the need for that understanding.


Neither Kilauea nor Mauna Loa is currently erupting, but we must not become complacent during periods of relative quiet. Both are active volcanoes, and both will erupt again — although exactly when and where are unknowns at this point.

HVO continues to closely monitor Kilauea and Mauna Loa and will inform emergency managers and the public if any significant change is detected.

HVO also encourages island residents to do their part by learning all they can about the volcanoes in their backyards and staying informed about each volcano’s status through HVO’s website. There, you can find weekly updates, monitoring data, and geologic histories for Kilauea and Mauna Loa, as well as photos, frequently asked questions, and more.

As we have each year since 2010, HVO scientists and our colleagues at the University of Hawaii at Hilo will help the learning process by offering a series of informative and engaging volcano presentations during the month of January. The complete Volcano Awareness Month schedule, including the date, time, location, and brief description for each talk, is posted on HVO’s website in the “HVO News” corner of the homepage.

For now, here’s a quick rundown of the January 2019 schedule:

The month begins with an “After Dark in the Park” program in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Jan. 8. That evening, an HVO geologist will recount the progression of Kilauea Volcano’s dramatic lower East Rift Zone eruption this summer.

Additional “After Dark in the Park” programs will be offered by USGS scientists the following two weeks: on Jan. 15, a discussion of new insights gained from Kilauea’s 2018 eruption, and on Jan. 22, a description of the collapse events within Kilauea Volcano’s summit caldera. Each of these Park programs starts at 7 p.m. in the Kilauea Visitor Center auditorium (National Park entrance fees may apply).

Given Kilauea’s unprecedented activity in May through August, HVO scientists will also present overviews of what happened this summer, both on the lower East Rift Zone and at the summit of the volcano. These presentations, each covering the same information, will be offered on three different dates at various locations around the island.

On Jan. 10, the first overview will be held on the UH-Hilo main campus in the University Classroom Building (UCB) Room 100 at 7 p.m. The next will be on Jan. 16 in the Gates Performing Arts Center on the Hawaii Preparatory Academy campus in Waimea, starting at 6:30 p.m. The third overview will be held on Jan. 17 in the Kealakehe High School Cafeteria in Kailua-Kona, also at 6:30 p.m. Details about these three overviews are provided in the information posted on HVO’s website.

Hilo’s Lyman Museum will also host a volcano program in which a UHH/USGS geologist who helped monitor Kilauea this summer will share his reflections and perspectives on the unfolding crises. His talk will be presented twice: at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 and at 3 p.m. Jan. 29. Admission is free to museum members; nonmembers pay a small fee. Details will soon be posted on the Lyman Museum website (http://lymanmuseum.org/).

The final 2019 Volcano Awareness Month presentation will be held on Jan. 31 in UCB Room 100 on the UH-Hilo main campus at 7 p.m. The director of UH-Hilo’s Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Laboratory will describe the use of unmanned aerial systems (drones) to monitor Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone lava flow and will share imagery that his team collected this summer.

With two of the world’s most active volcanoes on the Island of Hawaii, volcano awareness shouldn’t be limited to a single month. But January 2019 will be a good time to start or continue your quest to better understand Hawaiian volcanoes. Hope to see you at our talks!

Volcano Activity Updates

Kilauea is not erupting. Low rates of seismicity, deformation, and gas release have not changed significantly over the past week. Earthquakes continue to occur primarily at Kilauea’s summit area and south flank, with continued small aftershocks of the May 4, magnitude-6.9 quake. Seismicity remains low in the lower East Rift Zone (ERZ).

Hazardous conditions still exist at both the lower ERZ and summit. Residents in the lower Puna District and Kilauea summit areas on the Island of Hawaii should stay informed and heed Hawaii County Civil Defense closures, warnings, and messages (http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/active-alerts).

The USGS Volcano Alert level for Mauna Loa remains at NORMAL.


Please visit HVO’s website (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo) for past Volcano Watch articles, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake info, and more. Call 808-967-8862 for weekly Kilauea updates. Email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and affiliates.

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