Volcano Watch: A spaceborne sentinel keeps watch over Hawaiian volcanoes

  • A GOES infrared image of the Big Island on July 31. The warmer color region in the northern portion of the island is the recent brush fire. (GOES-17/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • One of the first images collected by GOES-17 upon its arrival in orbit, before shifting to its permanent position at 137° west longitude. Image from May 20, 2018. (Courtesy NOAA-NAS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Geologists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) had their mobile phones buzzing this past week with automated alert messages, notifying them that there was something new and hot on the Island of Hawaii. Although the internal alert system is meant to detect new volcanic activity, no eruption was occurring.