Volcano Watch: How has topography been modeled at Hawaii’s volcanoes?

  • Courtesy image A sample of the digital elevation model from the 2019 LiDAR survey of Kilauea, showing the vicinity of the former HVO office and Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The buildings have been digitally “flattened” because the instrument’s light pulses are not able to penetrate structures; this flattening approximates the “bare earth” ground surface below the buildings. Otherwise, LiDAR data captures minute details, such as the elevated curbs in the parking area.

In cartography and geographic analyses related to volcanoes, especially in Hawaii, there is perhaps nothing more important than having an accurate digital model of topography. Such models depict the three-dimensional nature of the land, elucidating features from past eruptions and influencing potential pathways of future activity.