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A volcano update is being hosted by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in collaboration with the Emergency Management Office of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

In Memoriam
Donald W. Peterson

Don collecting lava sample from Mauna Ulu flow, February 12, 1972HVO mourns the death of Don Peterson, former Scientist-in-Charge in 1970-75 and again in 1978-79. He died peacefully following a massive stroke at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 12.

Don measuring depth to lava lake in Mauna Ulu crater, July 17, 1971Don, together with his wife of 55 years, Betty, are remembered as gentle, kind, caring members of the small community of international volcanologists. With a permanent smile on his face, a penchant for story telling, and enormous patience, Don was well known both nationally and internationally as a stable benchmark during times of volcanic crisis. 

Don prepared the first detailed geologic map of Kilauea's caldera in the mid-1960s, and from this grew a fascination with Hawaiian volcanoes that continued to his death. Active to the last, Don, at the age of 78, served as co-leader of a Cities on Volcanoes field trip to the summit of Kilauea just this past summer.

Don served as Scientist-in-Charge of two USGS volcano observatories. The Cascades Volcano Observatory was founded as a result of the massive eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, and Don was selected as its first SIC, in large part because of his successful tenure at HVO. He headed CVO from 1981 to 1985, overseeing its rapid development from scratch to the largest volcano observatory in the USGS.

Many on the current HVO staff have known, worked with, or worked for Don. His loss is immeasurable, his influence also. Why is it that those who are humble are missed the most?

Mauna Ulu at sunrise, February 2, 1974; Donald W. Peterson

Archive of previous feature stories

  View of lava spattering in crater of Pu`u `O`o, Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i
Photograph by C. Heliker
12 September 2003
Top: Within minutes of erupting on the crater floor of Pu`u `O`o, lava drains back into the East Pond Vent and causes vigorous lava spattering as high as 10 m. The flow and drainback lasted only a few minutes. Such activity is probably caused by rising bubbles of gas that lift lava to the surface. The crust breaks, allowing gas to escape vigorously and drive brief spattering or a low fountain. When most of the gas has been lost, lava drains back into the vent. This activity is called gas pistoning. For full sequence of images, see September 2003 archive.

Bottom: Lava spattering from the west vent in West Gap Pit of Pu`u `O`o sails over a hornito on the rim of the pit, now filled with lava. Several flows spilled from the pit down the northwest flank of Pu`u `O`o, adding yet more lava to the west shield. The hornito and West Gap Pit were present before this most recent activity.

Archive of Featured Photographs

  Lava spattering from the West Gap Pit on the west flank of Pu`u `O`o, Kilauea Volcano
Photograph by C. Heliker
3 October 2003


More Volcano Information from HVO and Beyond

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Volcano WatchCurrent issue of Volcano Watch essay, written weekly by USGS scientists.
National Park ServiceHawai`i Volcanoes National Park, home to HVO. Find visitor information and resources here. Graphic: Kids DoorVolcanoes for kids, from the Volcano World website.