Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Marks a Century of Research and Monitoring
In 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory celebrates its 100th anniversary of studying the volcanoes’ workings and disseminating cutting-edge volcano science throughout the world. Many public events are planned to celebrate the centennial of HVO, the first volcano observatory in the United States.
Located on the rim of Kīlauea Volcano’s summit caldera within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, HVO monitors the seismic and volcanic activity of six Hawaiian volcanoes including Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Kīlauea has erupted 48 times on HVO’s watch, with a nearly continuous flank eruption since 1983, and an ongoing summit eruption since 2008. Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth, has erupted 12 times in the same period, most recently in 1984, when lava flowed to within about four miles of the Hilo city limits.
"Volcanic activity and its associated earthquakes are responsible for Hawaii's fertile soil, rainfall, isolated habitat for unique species, breathtaking natural beauty, but also, unfortunately, its geologic hazards," offered USGS director Marcia McNutt. "The activities planned during HVO’s Centennial are an engaging and stimulating way for residents and visitors alike to learn more about the fascinating processes that have formed and continue to shape these enormous volcanic features, and how to live safely in the vicinity of such powerful geologic forces."
HVO’s timely and effective warnings help protect the public from these volcanic and seismic hazards – a key mission since the start of the Observatory’s work with the collaboration of Massachusetts Institute of Technology geologist Thomas A. Jaggar and pioneer volcanologist Frank Perret.
For a century, HVO has also been an international leader in volcanological studies and a magnet for researchers from around the globe. Among other breakthroughs, HVO scientists confirmed that earthquakes and volcanic tremors are closely related to volcanic activity. They installed the first seismic network in the USGS, and they determined the composition of volcanic gases and their role in driving eruptions. They also pioneered the measurement and study of small changes in a volcano’s shape to get information about movements of vast quantities of magma within.
Centennial events include a Jan. 21 open house, for which admission to the national park will be waived; a year of talks and lectures throughout the Island of Hawai‘i and a vividly illustrated new general-interest publication that details HVO’s history and accomplishments.