Hawaiian Volcano Observatory


Mauna Loa


Other Volcanoes

Volcanic Hazards


August 10, 2000

A weekly feature provided by scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Volcano Watch approaches its ninth year

The weekly newspaper series "Volcano Watch" has been published continuously since November 1991. Its articles keep Big Island residents informed about Kilauea Volcano's ongoing eruption. Other topics have included volcanoes in the Pacific basin and worldwide that have enlightened readers about volcanic processes and earthquakes. The articles appear without a byline, prompting Hawai`i island residents to ask, "Who writes Volcano Watch?". The answer is that many U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists have contributed articles over the years.

The history of this newspaper series on volcanoes began in 1975, when Robert and Barbara Decker submitted a weekly contribution entitled "Volcano Watching" to the Hawai`i Tribune-Herald. Although Bob later became Scientist-in-Charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the articles for the one-year series were written while he was a professor of Geology at Dartmouth College.

"Volcano Watch" in its current format was started by David Clague 15 years later on November 2, 1991, during his tenure as Scientist-in-Charge at HVO. The first seven articles were dedicated entirely to the ongoing eruption. Quickly, however, the focus expanded to include noneruption topics. For example, the December 22 issue that year dealt entirely with an earthquake swarm at the submarine volcano, Lo`ihi. Eruption updates have always appeared, though sometimes only as a concluding note.

Clague was nearly sole contributor to the series from November 2, 1991, through March 13, 1995, writing 146 articles. Beginning in March 1995, writing became shared more equitably among HVO staff. In the years since, 38 USGS staff or volunteers have contributed articles to "Volcano Watch."

If Clague is the king of "Volcano Watch," then Arnold Okamura and Don Swanson are noble lords, with 41 and 37 contributions, respectively. These counts are for lead authorship, and our in-house archive commonly lists two or three authors critical to the writing of some reports. Many staff have written handfuls of articles, each one bringing added sparkle and a new outlook to the discussion of volcanoes. Volunteers working at HVO have enthusiastically written nine of the "Volcano Watch" articles.

Topics for the "Volcano Watch" series have concentrated on the inner workings of Hawaiian volcanoes. Earthquakes are commonly a topic, because of their great threat for damage to homes and businesses on the Big Island. New scientific methods for monitoring the Hawaiian volcanoes are shared with our readers. New findings and conclusions are released in "Volcano Watch," occasionally before they appear in scientific literature. If you live in Hawai`i, you may be the first to know.

Beginning in September 1998, the staff at the Biological Resources Division of the USGS, also housed at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, has contributed an article every two months, nine so far. These reports on the biology of oceanic volcanoes have broadened the scope of "Volcano Watch" and enlivened the discussion of our home in the middle of the Pacific.

"Volcano Watch" is now available worldwide, thanks to the internet and its World-Wide Web display format. Past articles may be accessed easily from the web archive by pointing to the HVO home page ( and then using the navigation bar at the foot of the page.

Eruption Update

Eruptive activity of Kilauea Volcano continued unabated during the past week. Lava is erupting from Pu`u `O`o and flowing through a network of tubes toward the coast near the eastern boundary of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Breakouts from the tube system feed flows on Pulama pali and in the coastal flats. Lava is entering the ocean mainly at two locations: the coast near the site of the buried Waha`ula heiau and 1.2 km (0.7 mi) to the west of Waha`ula at Kamokuna. Several small entries, located to the east of Waha`ula, are weak and ephemeral. The public is reminded that the ocean-entry areas are extremely hazardous, with explosions accompanying sudden collapses of the new land. The active lava flows are hot and have places with very thin crust. The steam clouds are highly acidic and laced with glass particles.

Residents of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park felt an earthquake at 7:00 p.m. on August 6. The magnitude-3.1 earthquake was located 18 km (10.8 mi) northeast of the summit of Kilauea at a depth of 21.6 km (13.0 mi).

HomeVolcano WatchProductsPhoto GalleryPress Releases
How Hawaiian Volcanoes Work

The URL of this page is
Updated: August 21, 2000