USGS: Volcano Hazards Program

USGS: Volcano Hazards Program

Volcano observatories reduce risk around the globe. Here’s how we can support them.

When a volcano erupts, there can be global ripples caused by interruptions of air travel, agriculture, and tourism. One way to keep everyone secure is to ensure that volcano observatories around the world have the expertise and resources to detect and forecast volcanic activity, and can provide useful warnings and messages used by both local and global populations.

Two scientists from the USGS Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP is funded largely by USAID) penned a short overview of ways that different entities such as academia, governments, NGOs, and the global insurance industry can work together to bolster global resilience to volcanic disasters through support of front-line science institutions, like volcano observatories.

The article, Volcano observatories reduce risk around the globe. Here’s how we can support them, delves into topics such as infrastructure donation, research and operational motives, and training of observatory staff, while maintaining the key goal of supporting the autonomy and authoritative role of the local observatory.

Volcano Observatories Continue Operations Amid COVID-19

Thefive volcano observatoriesof the USGS Volcano Hazards Program continue to monitor the volcanoes of the United States and issue forecasts and regular updates of volcanic activity. Through telework and other adaptations we continue to maintain our monitoring networks and analysis of the incoming data. Our field crews visit field stations as needed to maintain the quality and functionality of the network. All work will follow federal government guidelines to ensure public safety and the safety of our staff. The health and safety of the public and our employees are our highest priorities, and we continue to follow guidance from the White House, the CDC, and state and local authorities, as we implement teleworking, social distancing and virtual meeting tools.

Our priority is to continue the important work of the Department of the Interior and the USGS, while also maintaining the health and safety of our employees and community. Based on guidance from the White House, the CDC, and state and local authorities, we are shifting our operations to a virtual mode and have minimal staffing within our offices. If you need additional assistance, please contact vhpweb@usgs.gov.

Read Our Two Weekly Volcano Observatory Science Articles

Scientists within the USGS Volcano Hazards Program operate from within five U.S. volcano observatories. One of the primary goals of the observatories is to be an authoritative source for enlightening information about our Nation’s volcanoes.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the oldest of the five, has a long history of writing regular articles about volcanic activity and scientific research on the Hawaiian volcanoes. HVO’s weekly article, “Volcano Watch,” entered its 27th year of publication in November 2017. The entire catalog of articles can be accessed and searched on their website. New articles are published every Thursday afternoon.

Taking lead from HVO, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO), the newest of the five observatories, began a weekly article on the first day of 2018. This new column—the “Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles—is posted each Monday on the homepage of YVO’s website . Like HVO’s Volcano Watch series, the YVO Chronicles are peer-reviewed and edited before publication.

If you are interested in learning more about a specific topic related to Yellowstone or Hawaiian volcanism, please contact us. We will certainly answer, and you may see a longer-winded answer in a future Volcano Watch or Yellowstone Caldera Chronicle article.

Volcanic Unrest is Persistent in Alaska. No Current Eruption in Hawaii.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory website (AVO) includes complete information about volcanoes in Alaska.

  • Great Sitkin, located in the central Aleutian Islands, has been in a state of volcanic unrest since February 26, 2020. Seismicity is above background levels.
  • Mount Cleveland, located in the central Aleutian Islands, has been in a state of volcanic unrest since June 17, 2015. Explosive eruptions can send ash to altitudes hazardous to aviation.
  • Semisopochnoi, located in the western Aleutian Islands, has been in a state of volcanic unrest since July 5, 2019. Seismicity is above background levels. No explosive activity has been detected on the Adak infrasound array.
  • Shishaldin, located in the eastern Aleutian Islands, has been in a state of volcanic unrest since July 12, 2019. Seismicity is above background levels and elevated surface temperatures have been observed at the summit.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website offers information about volcanoes in Hawaii.

  • Kīlauea Volcano on the Island of Hawai‘i is not erupting. Eruptive activity ceased in mid-August, 2018.
  • Mauna Loa Volcano on the Island of Hawai‘i is not erupting. Earthquake and ground deformation rates at Mauna Loa Volcano have exceeded long term background levels. An eruption is not imminent and current rates are not cause for alarm. However, scientists have detected changes in the shallow magma storage system at Mauna Loa.

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