Over the past two decades, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has set up a camera network system to monitor visual changes at Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. This network was designed for the volcanic activity of the time and captured the two long-lived eruptions of Kilauea at the summit and East Rift Zone up close.
While this camera network design was ideal for the previous eruption locations on Kilauea’s rift zone and summit, future eruptions could occur elsewhere. We have therefore begun to reconfigure HVO’s camera network to cover a wider area and to fill in “blind spots.”
The current camera network consists of about 30 cameras, including seven on Mauna Loa, 21 clustered around Kilauea summit and Puu Oo on the middle East Rift Zone, and two along Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone.
On Kilauea, the new camera network will widen the monitoring coverage to cover visual gaps between Kilauea summit and Mauna Ulu, between Puu Oo and the lower East Rift Zone, and Kilauea’s Southwest Rift Zone.
Additionally, more cameras are being planned to watch over the lower elevations of Mauna Loa’s lower Southwest Rift Zone near the subdivision of Ocean View Estates, and all elevations of Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone. While two web cameras (webcams) watch over the southern part of Mokuaweoweo, we will try to improve their transmission to provide images in near real-time, like the rest of the network. Finally, we are planning new cameras to watch over the northern part of Mokuaweoweo and the radial vents.
The HVO camera network 2.0 is intended to permanently monitor all areas designated as lava-flow hazard zone 1, where vents are most likely to open in any eruption, not just the next one. The total camera count will remain around 30 cameras for the permanent network.
In addition to this first “tier” of permanent cameras, HVO will also leverage two collections of temporary-deployment cameras for a three-tiered camera network approach. While the permanent network is meant to provide the broadest coverage, it may not always provide the close-up details that are of most interest and value to scientists, emergency response agencies, and the public.
The second tier will be “campaign cameras.” These will be semi-portable webcams for installation in remote locations. They will record and document localized hazard evolution and volcanic processes. They will remain deployed for one to five years as conditions warrant. An existing camera (called “R3”) at Puu Oo is an example of a campaign camera.
The third tier will be the “eruption cameras.” They are intended for short-term use (the duration of an eruption) as emergency-response cameras for hazard monitoring as well as detailed scientific studies. Their benefit is that they are easily deployed almost anywhere, but their drawbacks include short lifetime operations, frequent maintenance and — as we learned in 2018 — these cameras are more susceptible to theft. The time-lapse cameras that documented ocean entries from Puu Ooand the cellular game cameras deployed during 2018 are examples of this “eruption response” type of camera.
The outpouring of citizen science during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea was incredible. Because of that experience, when new geophysical and camera stations were installed rapidly with landowner permission, we would like to try something new with the camera network. If you have a good view of one of the camera network “blind spots” and are willing to host an HVO web camera on your property, please email HVO at email@example.com.
The cameras are self-contained with their own power and communications. The maximum footprint is 4 feet by 4 feet but some systems can be much smaller. We cannot install a camera on every property, but we are interested to meet residents or other landowners who are willing to work with HVO to help grow our monitoring camera network to its full potential.
Near real-time images from current monitoring cameras are available on the HVO website, which will also host future monitoring camera images.
Please visit HVO’s website for past Volcano Watch articles, Kilauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake info, and more. 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.