Categorized | Education, Featured, Sci-Tech, Volcano

Volcano Watch: HVO’s centennial open house draws a large and enthusiastic crowd

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

“Wow!” “I didn’t know that!” “Cool!”

These were just a few of the comments said in response to the information shared during the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s open house on January 21, 2012.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Tim Orr (in red shirt) shows open house visitors one of the volcanic rocks on display at HVO'€™s centennial open house on January 21, 2012. USGS photo by Ben Gaddis.

Held in celebration of HVO’s 100th anniversary, the open house featured more than 40 exhibits about Hawai‘i’s volcanoes and how they are monitored. HVO staff and volunteers also conducted more than a dozen hands-on activities and demonstrations continually throughout the day-long event.

HVO is not ordinarily open to the public, so more than 1,400 Hawai‘i Island residents and visitors took advantage of the opportunity to visit the observatory and interact with the scientists responsible for tracking Hawaiian eruptions and earthquakes. Based on their comments, a good time was had by all.

Inside the observatory, people learned how and why earthquakes occur in Hawai‘i, smelled the distinctive odors of volcanic gases, and looked through microscopes for enhanced views of Pele’s hair and volcanic ash. They discovered how thermal cameras, which can “see” heat, help document lava flows and lava lakes, and heard how volcano-monitoring data from more than 100 field stations are collected and analyzed. They also saw examples of the actual instruments that monitor volcanic and seismic activity.

Outdoors, HVO scientists showed ash layers from Kilauea’s explosive eruptions and demonstrated the power of gases trapped within magma (subsurface molten rock). Scientists inflated and deflated a model volcano to illustrate how and why changes in the shapes of Hawai‘i’s active volcanoes are measured. People of all ages were invited to become “junior geologists” by wielding a rock hammer and using a geologic hand lens to examine volcanic rocks.

Winners of HVO’s centennial poster contest for Hawai‘i Island 4th grade students were honored in an award ceremony during the open house. The 10 winning posters are now posted on HVO’s website (hvo.wr.usgs.gov).

During the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s centennial open house, HVO Scientist-in-Charge Jim Kauahikaua points to data displays as he explains how Hawaiian volcanoes and earthquakes are monitored to some of the more than 1,400 people who attended the January 21 event.  USGS photo by Ben Gaddis.

During the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s centennial open house, HVO Scientist-in-Charge Jim Kauahikaua points to data displays as he explains how Hawaiian volcanoes and earthquakes are monitored to some of the more than 1,400 people who attended the January 21 event. USGS photo by Ben Gaddis.

Copies of “The Story of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory—A Remarkable First 100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes,” a new USGS general information booklet published to commemorate HVO’s centennial, were distributed to open-house attendees. Folks could also pick up two new USGS Fact Sheets about earthquakes in Hawai‘i and Kilauea Volcano’s explosive eruptions.

If you missed the open house, links to all three publications—as well as the newly revised “Eruptions of Hawaiian Volcanoes” booklet and two new DVDs featuring selected images from Hawai‘i’s 2006 Kiholo Bay-Mahukona earthquakes and time-lapse movies of Kilauea’s 2004–2008 eruption—are posted on the HVO website.

On the day of HVO’s open house, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea Military Camp, Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association, the USGS Ecosystems Kilauea Field Station, and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes joined in our centennial celebration by offering guided walks and other activities. Volcano-inspired exhibits at Volcano Art Center, Lyman Museum, and East Hawai‘i Cultural Center added another facet to the day’s events.

HVO’s centennial open house took place during Volcano Awareness Month, an event held on Hawai‘i Island every January since 2010. This year, current and former HVO scientists offered 11 presentations about Hawaiian volcanoes and earthquakes and the history of the observatory. Programs at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Lyman Museum in Hilo, and Kealakehe High School in Kona were well received, with 40 to nearly 300 people attending each talk.

Although January has come to an end, we hope Island residents and visitors will continue their quests to become more aware of Hawai‘i’s active volcanoes. To that end, HVO scientists will continue to offer informative talks throughout 2012.

On February 8, HVO geologist Frank Trusdell will present the eruptive history and current status of Mauna Loa at the Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park amphitheater at 6:00 p.m. On February 27, HVO geologist Don Swanson will speak about Kilauea’s history of explosive eruptions at Hilo’s Lyman Museum at 7:00 p.m.

Additional programs will be announced as they are scheduled. Suggested topics for future presentations can be sent to askHVO@usgs.gov.

We sincerely thank everyone who participated in the Volcano Awareness Month events and HVO’s centennial open house. Your enthusiasm for learning more about Hawai‘i’s dynamic environment fuels our efforts to keep you informed.

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