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International volcano scientists train on Big Island

July 11, 2014 - 2:22pm

Scientists and technicians from volcano observatories in 11 countries recently visited the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to learn techniques for monitoring active volcanoes.

U.S. scientists last week trained the 16 International Training Program in Volcano Hazards Monitoring participants on monitoring methods, data analysis and interpretation, and volcanic hazard assessment, as well as instruction on the use and maintenance of volcano monitoring instruments, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. In addition, the participants learned about events, responding rapidly during volcanic crises, and how to work with governing officials and the media to save lives and property.

Traditional geological tools were also covered, as well as the latest technology, such as using Geographic Information Systems to predict lava flow paths, conduct a vulnerability assessment, and tabulate the predicted costs associated with the damage from a lava flow and infrasound monitoring, which is critical for rapidly detecting volcanic explosions and/or rift zone eruptions. The participants also learned about basic seismological fundamentals and pre-eruptive seismic swarms at various volcanoes around the world.

“Hawaiian volcanoes offer an excellent teaching opportunity because our volcanoes are relatively accessible, they’re active, and USGS staff scientists can teach while actually monitoring volcanic activity,” U.S. Geological Survey’s HVO Scientist-in-ChargeJim Kauahikaua said in a prepared statement. “The small investment we make in training international scientists now goes a long way toward mitigating large volcanic disasters in the future.”

The International Training Program in Volcano Hazards Monitoring is designed to assist scientists from other nations in attaining self-sufficiency in monitoring volcanoes and reducing the risks from eruptions, according to HVO. Field exercises on Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes teach students to observe and operate a variety of instruments. Classroom instruction at the observatory provided students the opportunity to interpret data, as well as plan a monitoring network for volcanoes in their locations, according to HVO.

This year’s participants included 16 volcano scientists from Chile, Colombia Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Italy, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, according to HVO.

The training program, now in its 24th year, is organized by the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, with support from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the joint USGS-U.S. Agency for International Development Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, according HVO.