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Scientist collects lava sample from lava flow entering the sea on Kilauea Volcano. (Photograph by J.D. Griggs.)

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) engage in a variety of research activities in order to reduce the loss of life and property that can result from volcanic eruptions and to minimize the social and economic turmoil that can result when volcanoes threaten to erupt. These activities include studies of the physical processes before, during, and after a volcanic eruption, assessments of volcano hazards, and public outreach to translate scientific information about volcanoes into terms that are meaningful to the public and public officials

Monitoring volcanoes for signs of activity, another vital component, is carried out by USGS earth scientists at three volcano observatories, which were established to study active volcanoes in Hawaii (1912), the Cascades (1980), and Alaska (1988). These researchers record earthquakes, survey the surfaces of volcanoes, map volcanic rock deposits, and analyze the chemistry of volcanic gas and fresh lava to detect warning signs of impending activity and determine the most likely type of activity that will affect areas around a volcano. During the past 10 years, several warnings of eruptions were issued by the USGS and monitoring of recently active volcanoes in the United States was expanded. Predicting the time and size of volcanic eruptions, however, remains a difficult challenge for scientists.

Geologist collects lava

Maintained by John Watson
Updated 06.24.97

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