HVO's centennial open house draws a large crowd


SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY

"Wow!" "I didn't know that!" "Cool!"

These were just a few of the comments said in response to the information shared during the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's open house on Jan. 21.

Held in celebration of HVO's 100th anniversary, the open house featured more than 40 exhibits about Hawaii's volcanoes and how they are monitored. HVO staff and volunteers also conducted more than a dozen hands-on activities and demonstrations continually throughout the daylong event.

HVO is not ordinarily open to the public, so more than 1,400 Hawaii Island residents and visitors took advantage of the opportunity to visit the observatory and interact with the scientists responsible for tracking Hawaiian eruptions and earthquakes.

Inside the observatory, people learned how and why earthquakes occur in Hawaii, smelled the distinctive odors of volcanic gases, and looked through microscopes for enhanced views of Pele's hair and volcanic ash. They discovered how thermal cameras, which can "see" heat, help document lava flows and lava lakes, and heard how volcano-monitoring data from more than 100 field stations are collected and analyzed. They also saw examples of the instruments that monitor volcanic and seismic activity.

Outdoors, HVO scientists showed ash layers from Kilauea's explosive eruptions and demonstrated the power of gases trapped within magma (subsurface molten rock). Scientists inflated and deflated a model volcano to illustrate how and why changes in the shapes of Hawaii's active volcanoes are measured. People of all ages were invited to become "junior geologists" by wielding a rock hammer and using a geologic hand lens to examine volcanic rocks.

Winners of HVO's centennial poster contest for Hawaii Island fourth-grade students were honored in an award ceremony during the open house. The 10 winning posters are posted at hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

Copies of "The Story of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory — A Remarkable First 100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes," a new USGS general information booklet published to commemorate HVO's centennial, were distributed to open-house attendees. Folks could also pick up two new USGS fact sheets about earthquakes in Hawaii and Kilauea Volcano's explosive eruptions.

If you missed the open house, links to all three publications — as well as the newly revised "Eruptions of Hawaiian Volcanoes" booklet and two new DVDs featuring selected images from Hawaii's 2006 Kiholo Bay-Mahukona earthquakes and time-lapse movies of Kilauea's 2004-2008 eruption — are posted on the HVO website.

On the day of HVO's open house, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii Pacific Parks Association, the USGS Ecosystems Kilauea Field Station and the University of Hawaii at Hilo Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes joined the centennial celebration by offering guided walks and other activities. Volcano-inspired exhibits at Volcano Art Center, Lyman Museum and East Hawaii Cultural Center added another facet to the day's events.

HVO's centennial open house took place during Volcano Awareness Month, an event held on Hawaii Island every January since 2010. This year, current and former HVO scientists offered 11 presentations about Hawaiian volcanoes and earthquakes and the history of the observatory. Programs at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Lyman Museum in Hilo and Kealakehe High School in Kona were well received, with 40 to nearly 300 people attending each talk.

Although January has come to an end, we hope island residents and visitors will continue their quests to become more aware of Hawaii's active volcanoes. To that end, HVO scientists will continue to offer informative talks throughout 2012.

On Wednesday, HVO geologist Frank Trusdell will present the eruptive history and current status of Mauna Loa at the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park amphitheater at 6 p.m. On Feb. 27, HVO geologist Don Swanson will speak about Kilauea's history of explosive eruptions at Hilo's Lyman Museum at 7 p.m.

Additional programs will be announced as they are scheduled. Suggested topics for future presentations can be sent to askHVO@usgs.gov.

Kilauea activity update

A lava lake present within the Halemaumau Overlook vent during the past week resulted in nighttime glow visible from the Jaggar Museum overlook. The lake, which is normally about 330 to 410 feet below the floor of Halemaumau Crater and visible by HVO's webcam, rose and fell slightly during the week in response to a series of large deflation-inflation cycles. It reached a relatively high level this past week, because of summit inflation, but was still 230 feet below the crater floor.

On Kilauea's east rift zone, surface lava flows were active in the upper part of the flow field, about 2 to 3 miles southeast of Puu Oo, over the past week. The flow field on the coastal plain remains inactive after activity stalled there over a month ago, and there is no active ocean entry. Occasional short lava flows and a small lava pond have been observed over the past week within Puu Oo's crater.

Visit hvo.wr.usgs.gov for detailed Kilauea and Mauna Loa activity updates, recent volcano photos, recent earthquakes and more; call 967-8862 for a Kilauea summary; email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.