Monday, June 17, 2024
Volcano Watch

Where city life and volcanoes meet

Many volcanoes are attractive places to live. Good soil, sweeping views, rugged beauty-all these features lure us to volcanic settings. Auckland and Naples are the two largest cities on, or at the foot of, volcanoes. On the mainland, Mammoth Lakes, winter playground of many southern Californians, is in the active Long Valley caldera. Portland, Oregon, is built within an old volcanic field that arguably could erupt again. And, of course, all of Hawai`i’s population resides on volcanoes, five of which can be considered active.

Every silver lining has its cloud. The hazards posed to communities on and near volcanoes are very real, and the risk-the number of people and the value of infrastructure potentially affected by the hazards-increases each year as populations increase. Communities downstream or downwind from volcanoes are not immune to volcano hazards, either; witness the loss of more than 22,000 lives in 1985 at Armero, Colombia, where a mudflow generated by a small eruption 74 km (46 miles) away obliterated much of the city.

In 1998, an international conference was held in Rome and Naples, bringing together more than 100 representatives of diverse disciplines and backgrounds, from volcanologists to public officials to social scientists to emergency managers. Such meetings are rare; mostly we talk among ourselves rather than across discipline boundaries. The conference, Cities on Volcanoes, was a resounding success and led to a second meeting in Auckland in 2001 that generated an equal amount of interaction and advancement among its 220 participants.

Cities on Volcanoes 3 (COV3) starts on July 14 in Hilo. About 350 people from 27 countries will spend the week listening to talks, viewing posters, taking part in discussions and workshops, and visiting special volcanic areas on the island. More than half are from outside the United States. Italy, Japan, and New Zealand have the most foreign participants-not surprising, given the importance of volcanoes in those countries.

In his letter inviting the conference to Hawai`i County, Mayor Harry Kim wrote that “Hawaii is the perfect venue for this conference. We have a healthy respect for our volcanoes…[and are]…preparing for future volcanic activity of potentially active volcanoes of Hawaii through collaborative work in emergency management.” Those potentially active volcanoes are Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Hualalai, arguably Mauna Kea, and, in Maui County, Haleakala. The fact that COV3 is being held in Hawai`i highlights the importance to the international community of such future volcanic activity.

The conference, hosted by the University of Hawai`i-Hilo, was organized at the University’s Conference Center led by Director Judith Fox-Goldstein and Conference Specialist Andrea Furuli. Mahalo nui loa to Judy, Andrea, and their staff, from the technical committee chaired by Prof. Bruce Houghton (UH-Manoa).

Much of the meeting will be restricted to technical sessions, but the public is heartily invited to two free evening programs at the UHH Theater. The first public program features award-winning movies of Hawaiian eruptions (Kilauea Iki-Kapoho 1959-60, Mauna Ulu 1969-74, and Mauna Loa 1984) and will end with a film showing last year’s destructive eruption of Nyiragongo volcano that sent lava flows through the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Wednesday Night at the Movies starts at 7 p.m. on July 16.

On Friday, July 18, Tari Moulds Mattox, former HVO geologist with close ties to the Kalapana community, will present a slide show about the current eruption to introduce “Kalapana Dreaming,” an evening of reminiscence among people affected by the Kilauea eruption in 1986-1991. We hope that a number of folks with connections to Kalapana come to the informal evening gathering and talk story about their experiences. The program is manuahi and starts at 7 p.m. in the UHH Theater.

Come to the evening programs, rub elbows with conference participants, and help show why “Hawaii is the perfect venue for this conference.”

Activity Update

Eruptive action at the Pu`u `O`o vent of the presently active Kilauea Volcano continued unabated during the past week. Surface activity is visible on the Kohola flow above Paliuli, and the east-side lobe of the main Mother’s Day flow is almost continuously incandescent from top to bottom of Pulama pali. Scattered surface breakouts also occur in the coastal flats near the base of Paliuli. The ocean entry from the Highcastle delta is small and weak.

The public is reminded that the ocean entry areas are extremely hazardous, with explosions accompanying sudden collapses of the new land. The steam clouds are highly acidic and laced with glass particles. The National Park Service has put warning signs in critical places. Do not venture beyond these signs and onto the lava deltas and benches.

Two earthquakes were reported felt on the island during the past week. A resident of Kohala Estates felt an earthquake at 9:36 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6. The magnitude-4.0 temblor was located 175 km (109 mi) southwest of Kailua-Kona at a depth of 6 km (3.6 mi). A magnitude-3.4 earthquake occurred at 5:59 a.m. on July 10 and was felt in Ahualoa, Papa`aloa, and Hilo. The earthquake was located 11 km (6.6 mi) east of the summit of Mauna Kea at a depth of 26 km (15.6 mi).

Mauna Loa is not erupting. The summit region continues to inflate slowly. Seismic activity remains low, with no earthquake located in the summit area during the last seven days.

This article was written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and is republished by with permission.

Hawaii Star Wire

Press releases, media advisories, and other announcements submitted to the Hawaii Star.

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