Volcano Watch: HVO camera network reconfiguration and upgrades coming soon

  • Map of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s current camera network coverage. Lava-flow hazard zone 1 is outlined in yellow. Color-shaded areas are visible to at least one camera in the current network. HVO wants to expand the network so it covers the grey-shaded areas in zone 1 as well. If your property has a good view of unshaded areas in zone 1, and you are willing to host a camera, please email HVO at askhvo@usgs.gov.

Throughout the past two decades, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has set up a camera network system to monitor visual changes at Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. This network was designed for the volcanic activity of the time and captured the two long-lived eruptions of Kilauea at the summit and East Rift Zone up close.

While this camera network design was ideal for the previous eruption locations on Kilauea’s rift zone and summit, future eruptions could occur elsewhere. We have, therefore, begun to reconfigure HVO’s camera network to cover a wider area and fill in “blind spots.”


The current camera network consists of about 30 cameras, including seven on Mauna Loa, 21 clustered around Kilauea summit and Pu‘u ‘O‘o on the middle East Rift Zone, and two along Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone.

On Kilauea, the new camera network will widen the monitoring coverage to cover visual gaps between Kilauea summit and Mauna Ulu, between Pu‘u ‘O‘o and the lower East Rift Zone, and Kilauea’s Southwest Rift Zone.

Additionally, more cameras are being planned to watch over the lower elevations of Mauna Loa’s lower Southwest Rift Zone near the subdivision of Ocean View Estates, and all elevations of Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone. While two webcams watch over the southern part of Moku‘aweoweo, we will try to improve their transmission to provide images in near real time, like the rest of the network. Finally, we are planning new cameras to watch over the northern part of Moku‘aweoweo and the radial vents.

The HVO camera network 2.0 is intended to permanently monitor all areas designated as lava-flow hazard zone 1, where vents are most likely to open in any eruption, not just the next one. The total camera count will remain at about 30 cameras for the permanent network.

In addition to this first “tier” of permanent cameras, HVO will also leverage 2 collections of temporary-deployment cameras for a three-tiered camera network approach. While the permanent network is meant to provide the broadest coverage, it might not always provide the close-up details that are of most interest and value to scientists, emergency response agencies and the public.

The second tier will be “campaign cameras.” These will be semi-portable webcams for installation in remote locations. They will record and document localized hazard evolution and volcanic processes. They will remain deployed for 1-5 years as conditions warrant. An existing camera (called “R3”) at Pu‘u ‘O‘o is an example of a campaign camera.

The third tier will be the “eruption cameras.” They are intended for short-term use (the duration of an eruption) as emergency-response cameras for hazard monitoring as well as detailed scientific studies. Their benefit is that they are easily deployed almost anywhere, but their drawbacks include short lifetime operations, frequent maintenance and — as we learned in 2018 — these cameras are more susceptible to theft. The time-lapse cameras that documented ocean entries from Pu‘u ‘O‘o and the cellular game cameras deployed during 2018 are examples of this “eruption response” type of camera.

The outpouring of citizen science during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea was incredible. Because of that experience, when new geophysical and camera stations were installed rapidly with landowner permission, we would like to try something new with the camera network. If you have a good view of one of the camera network “blind spots” and are willing to host an HVO webcam on your property, email HVO at askhvo@usgs.gov.

The cameras are self-contained with their own power and communications. The maximum footprint is 4-ft-by-4-ft (slightly larger than 1-m-by-1-m), but some systems can be much smaller.

We cannot install a camera on every property, but we are interested to meet residents or other landowners who are willing to work with HVO to help grow our monitoring camera network to its full potential.

Near real-time images from current monitoring cameras are available on the HVO website, which will also host future monitoring camera images.

Volcano activity updates

Kilauea Volcano is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level remains at Normal (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vhp/about_alerts.html). Kilauea updates are issued monthly.

Kilauea monitoring data for the past month show variable but typical rates of seismicity and ground deformation, low rates of sulfur dioxide emissions and only minor geologic changes since the end of eruptive activity in September 2018. The water lake at the bottom of Halema‘uma‘u continues to slowly expand and deepen. For the most current information about the lake, visit https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/summit_water_resources.html.

Mauna Loa is not erupting and remains at Volcano Alert Level Advisory. This alert level does not mean an eruption is imminent or progression to eruption from current level of unrest is certain. Mauna Loa updates are issued weekly.

This past week, about 67 small-magnitude earthquakes were recorded beneath the upper elevations of Mauna Loa; most occurred at shallow depths of less than 8 kilometers (about 5 miles). GPS measurements show long-term slowly increasing summit inflation, consistent with magma supply to the volcano’s shallow storage system. Gas concentrations and fumarole temperatures as measured at Sulphur Cone and the summit remain stable. Webcams show no changes to the landscape. For more information about current monitoring of Mauna Loa Volcano, visit https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mauna_loa/monitoring_summary.html.

There was one event with three or more felt reports in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: a M2.1 earthquake 2 km (1 mi) WNW of Honokaa at -2 km (-1 mi) depth at 6:03 p.m. Sept. 16.

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


Visit HVO’s website for past “Volcano Watch” articles, Kilauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake information and more. Email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

“Volcano Watch” is a weekly article and activity update written by HVO scientists and affiliates.

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