The combination of seismic and ground- deformation monitoring has proved to be the most useful and reliable technique in the short-term forecasting of eruptions at Kilauea. Some experimental techniques being developed or tested show promise and should increase forecasting capabilities in the future. These new methods include monitoring the changes in: the composition and amount of volcanic gases discharged (such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, helium, and radon); the magnetic and gravitational fields of the volcano; and the various geoelectrical properties of the volcano.

So far, the data from these experimental techniques have not given definitive precursors to possible eruptions. How- ever, they have identified underground movement of magma from one place to another, sometimes unaccompanied by

measurable ground deformation or earthquakes. Experience on well-studied active volcanoes in Hawaii and elsewhere has shown that the best monitoring is achieved by using a combination of approaches rather than relying on any single method.

At present, scientists generally can identify the increased potential for eruption of Kilauea or Mauna Loa and the likely location of the outbreak, but they cannot make specific forecasts of the exact timing or size of the expected eruption. However, for a number of Kilauea eruptions in recent decades, the HVO staff has been able to provide advice to officials of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, hours to days in advance, to evacuate certain areas of the park and to station observers at or near the eruption site.

Scientist using a correlation spectrometer (COSPEC) to measure the emission of sulfur dioxide gas from the Pu'u 'O'o vent. This instrument was originally developed to measure the discharge of sulfur dioxide from industrial smokestacks in monitoring atmospheric pollution. (Photograph by J.D. Griggs.) COSPEC used to measure SO2 emission

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Maintained by John Watson
Updated 07.01.05