Volcano Watch: Picturing a volcano’s plume

  • USGS photos by C. Kern At left, the degassing plume at Kilauea in 2013 as seen by a standard, visible-light camera. Note that plume is mostly transparent, with some blue/brown tones from aerosol scattering, and hard to distinguish from background cloud. At right, the plume from the same vantage point as seen by a UV camera. The SO2 in the plume absorbs UV and makes the plume appear dark.

The volcanic gas plume at the summit of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is often the most visible indication of the ongoing eruptive activity during the daylight hours. On some days, it can also be quite easy to smell the gas plume, if the winds blow it toward accessible areas.