Categorized | Featured, Sci-Tech, Volcano

Volcano Watch: HVO’s website makeover is more than skin deep

A comparison of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory homepage in 1998 (left), the year the website was originally launched, and in 2017 (right), following an extensive makeover to make the website more interactive, mobile-friendly, and easier to maintain. Check out HVO’s new website at A comparison of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory homepage in 1998 (left), the year the website was originally launched, and in 2017 (right), following an extensive makeover to make the website more interactive, mobile-friendly, and easier to maintain. Check out HVO’s new website at…

(Volcano Watch is a weekly article written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.)

In 1998, a U.S. first-class postage stamp cost 32 cents and a gallon of gas in Hawaii set you back about $1.50. Apple unveiled the iMac, Google was founded, and Pokémon was released in the U.S. for Nintendo® Game Boy.

Fast forward to 2017. Email and paying bills online have all but replaced the need to mail a letter for 49 cents. The price of gas has doubled, but it’s now possible to opt for an electric car and never go to the pump. And amazingly, many people carry a pocket-sized computer (a smartphone) with the capability to search the Internet for whatever they want, any time of the day—or to just play Pokémon GO.

Why compare 1998 to 2017? It’s related to the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) website, which was initially launched in March 1998. Not much changed over the course of 19 years—until last week, when an extensive makeover of the website was rolled out.

The changes to HVO’s website are much more than “skin” deep—its “bones” are completely different.

What you now see on your computer or mobile device is supported by a powerful database that houses both informational content and nearly all volcano monitoring data that stream into HVO from hundreds of instruments throughout Hawaii. This new structure allows for a more efficient and consistent website, with simplified maintenance that leads to fewer broken links.

Written sections were added and expanded to explain the eruption history of many Hawaiian volcanoes. But the real stars of the new website are the interactive maps that display earthquake and monitoring data.

On HVO’s old site, you could only see data from seismometers and a few deformation instruments on Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. The new map interface allows access to more data types, and you can view near-real-time data streams across all our monitored volcanoes by clicking on the instrument symbols. The maps can be reached via “Earthquakes” in the website menu bars, or via the “Monitoring” tab in sub-menus on the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcano pages.

Sharing results of monitoring and scientific study is a primary goal of HVO scientists. Kīlauea Volcano’s Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption was in its 15th year when HVO’s first website was launched and the Internet made it easier to share information about it.

With the advent of the HVO website came detailed daily updates of Kīlauea eruptive activity. Field photographs were regularly posted (and even back-dated to 1997) on the website, and in 2000, scientists began posting maps of the East Rift Zone lava flows. Through HVO’s website, the eruption of Kīlauea reached a growing and devoted worldwide audience.

Advances in technology and volcano monitoring capability led to more enhancements to the website.

In 2003, HVO scientists built a powerful volcano-monitoring data analysis and visualization tool called “VALVE.” By 2006, deformation data (tilt and GPS) that record the up-and-down movement (inflation and deflation) of Kīlauea’s summit and Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater were made available on the HVO website. Webcam images were then added steadily—Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō in 2004, Mauna Loa in 2005, Halemaʻumaʻu in 2008—with a dedicated webcams page created in 2009.

In 2011, the hard-coded HTML pages for images, videos, and Volcano Watch articles were transitioned into a database. Although what you saw on your computer didn’t change dramatically, the database made it much easier to post, manage, and archive information. In the same year, HVO launched its first interactive map (VolcWeb) to display earthquake monitoring data for Hawaiian volcanoes. The 2017 website map improves and enhances the information that is available, especially for mobile devices.

Conceptualization for the redesign of HVO’s website began six years ago. The longstanding history and large audience for HVO’s online presence were carefully considered in the development of the new website. Its architecture allows for continual and easier improvements, which are ongoing and will take into account how users interact with the website.

Change is rarely easy, and it takes time to adapt to something new. We hope that once you explore HVO’s new website and learn the pathways to your favorite content, you’ll find gems along the way and enjoy learning more about Hawaiian volcanoes. Feedback about the website is welcome at

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Oct 17, 2017 / 10:45 am



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