Volcano Watch: HVO announces Volcano Awareness Month programs for January 2020

  • Photos courtesy of USGS and NPS Volcano Awareness Month programs offered in January 2020 are depicted by these images. Clockwise, from top left, ground cracks opened at HVO’s former location atop Kilauea volcano in 2018, fissure erupting on Mauna Loa in March 1984; crater lake within Halema‘uma‘u at Kilauea’s summit and visitors hiking a Kahuku trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The complete schedule of upcoming talks and hikes is posted at https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vsc/file_mngr/file-236/2020%20VAM%20Schedule_Talks%20and%20Hikes.pdf.

Neither Kilauea nor Mauna Loa erupted in 2019, but this period of relative quiet must not lead to complacency about Hawaii’s two most active volcanoes. Both will eventually erupt again.

Given this fact, Hawaii residents should stay informed and be prepared for the hazards posed by a restless or erupting volcano. As we all learned from Kilauea’s 2018 eruption, the possible impacts — lava flows, ground cracks, poor air quality, evacuations, road closures and others — can be far-reaching and life-changing.


Volcano Awareness Month, observed every January since 2010, is one way residents can learn more about the volcanoes that inspire and concern us all. In January 2020, informative and engaging talks and hikes on Hawaiian volcanoes will be offered by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in cooperation with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii County Civil Defense. All are free and open to the public.

The complete schedule of Volcano Awareness Month programs, including dates, times, locations and brief descriptions for the talks and hikes offered in January, is posted on HVO’s website (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/) under “HVO News” (lower left corner of homepage).

For now, here’s a brief overview of the January 2020 schedule:

HVO scientists will present “After Dark in the Park” programs every Tuesday evening throughout the month in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Topics addressed during these talks include a recap of HVO’s current situation since relocating to Hilo and what its future might hold, as well as updates on Kilauea and Mauna Loa (Jan. 7), what’s happening at Kilauea Volcano’s summit and the crater lake within Halema‘uma‘u (Jan. 14), insight from ongoing research and monitoring on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone (Jan. 21) and the unprecedented level of seismicity that occurred in 2018 (Jan. 28).

Each program starts at 7 p.m. in the Kilauea Visitor Center auditorium. National park entrance fees apply.

Two talks will be offered on the UH-Hilo main campus in University Classroom Building Room 100. The first, a repeat of the Jan. 7 “After Dark in the Park” program about HVO’s status and volcano updates, is at 7 p.m. Jan. 9. The second program at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 will describe how lava samples collected from erupting fissures in 2018 revealed the complex story of magma that fed the eruption.

On the Kona side of the island, a presentation about damaging earthquakes in Hawaii, including the dramatic seismicity in 2018, and how to prepare for the next “big one” will be offered twice Jan. 8. The talk will be first presented at 3:30 p.m. at the Kailua-Kona Public Library and then repeated at 6 p.m. at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Programs about Mauna Loa, Earth’s largest active volcano, will be offered in two locations. At 6 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Pu‘uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park amphitheater, an HVO scientist will talk about the current status and eruptive history of the volcano. At 6 p.m. Jan. 30 in the Ocean View Community Center, HVO will team with Civil Defense to provide information about Mauna Loa — its current status, potential hazards, how to prepare for the next eruption and more.

The 2020 lineup also includes a number of hikes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park guided by HVO scientists and park rangers. These hikes include treks through Kilauea Iki, walks through Kilauea Volcano’s summit history, a look at the 1868 Mauna Loa lava flow on a trail in the park’s Kahuku Unit and a venture back to the 1969-74 Mauna Ulu eruption. Details about these hikes are provided in the Volcano Awareness Month schedule on HVO’s website.

HVO spearheads Volcano Awareness Month each January because we realize the importance of understanding the spectacular volcanoes on which we live and of being prepared for the next eruption. We hope our 2020 programs will be just the start of your quest to learn more about our volcanic island home.

If you’re unable to attend the Volcano Awareness Month talks and hikes, you can learn and stay informed about Hawaiian volcanoes through HVO’s website. There, you will find volcano updates, monitoring data, geologic histories for Kilauea and Mauna Loa, photos and videos and much more.

Volcano activity update

Kilauea Volcano is not erupting and its USGS Volcano Alert level remains at Normal (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vhp/about_alerts.html). Updates for Kilauea are now issued monthly.

Kilauea monitoring data showed no significant changes in activity during the past month. Seismicity was relatively consistent with some episodic increased rates at the summit coincident with inflation. Sulfur dioxide emission rates are low at the summit and below detection limits at Pu‘u ‘O‘o and the lower East Rift Zone. The water lake at the bottom of Halema‘uma‘u continues to slowly expand and deepen.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level remains at Advisory. This alert level does not mean an eruption is imminent or progression to an eruption is certain.

This past week, about 90 small-magnitude earthquakes (all less than M2.0) were detected beneath the upper elevations of Mauna Loa. Deformation measurements show continued summit inflation. Fumarole temperature and gas concentrations on the Southwest Rift Zone remain stable.

Mauna Loa updates are issued weekly. For more information about the status of the volcano, go to https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mauna_loa/status.html.

One earthquake with three or more felt reports occurred on Hawaii Island this past week: a magnitude-2.4 quake 27 km (17 mi) east of Honaunau-Napo‘opo‘o at 11:10 a.m. Dec. 11 at -2 km (-1 mi) depth.

HVO continues to closely monitor Kilauea and Mauna Loa for any signs of increased activity.


Visit HVO’s website (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo) for past Volcano Watch articles, Kilauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake info, and more. Email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

Volcano Watch (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/hvo_volcano_watch.html) is a weekly article and activity update written by U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and affiliates.

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