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Open-File Report 2009–1165

Volcano-Monitoring Instrumentation in the United States, 2008

By Marianne Guffanti, Angela K. Diefenbach, John W. Ewert, David W. Ramsey, Peter F. Cervelli, and Steven P. Schilling

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The United States is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world. According to the global volcanism database of the Smithsonian Institution, the United States (including its Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) is home to about 170 volcanoes that are in an eruptive phase, have erupted in historical time, or have not erupted recently but are young enough (eruptions within the past 10,000 years) to be capable of reawakening. From 1980 through 2008, 30 of these volcanoes erupted, several repeatedly.

Volcano monitoring in the United States is carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Volcano Hazards Program, which operates a system of five volcano observatories—Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO), Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), Long Valley Observatory (LVO), and Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO). The observatories issue public alerts about conditions and hazards at U.S. volcanoes in support of the USGS mandate under P.L. 93–288 (Stafford Act) to provide timely warnings of potential volcanic disasters to the affected populace and civil authorities.

To make efficient use of the Nation’s scientific resources, the volcano observatories operate in partnership with universities and other governmental agencies through various formal agreements. The Consortium of U.S. Volcano Observatories (CUSVO) was established in 2001 to promote scientific cooperation among the Federal, academic, and State agencies involved in observatory operations. Other groups also contribute to volcano monitoring by sponsoring long-term installation of geophysical instruments at some volcanoes for specific research projects.

This report describes a database of information about permanently installed ground-based instruments used by the U.S. volcano observatories to monitor volcanic activity (unrest and eruptions). The purposes of this Volcano-Monitoring Instrumentation Database (VMID) are to (1) document the Nation’s existing, ground-based, volcano-monitoring capabilities, (2) answer queries within a geospatial framework about the nature of the instrumentation, and (3) provide a benchmark for planning future monitoring improvements.

The VMID is not an archive of the data collected by monitoring instruments, nor is it intended to keep track of whether a station is temporarily unavailable due to telemetry or equipment problems. Instead, it is a compilation of basic information about each instrument such as location, type, and sponsoring agency. Typically, instruments installed expressly for volcano monitoring are emplaced within about 20 kilometers (km) of a volcanic center; however, some more distant instruments (as far away as 100 km) can be used under certain circumstances and therefore are included in the database. Not included is information about satellite-based and airborne sensors and temporarily deployed instrument arrays, which also are used for volcano monitoring but do not lend themselves to inclusion in a geospatially organized compilation of sensor networks.

This Open-File Report is provided in two parts: (1) an Excel spreadsheet ( containing the version of the Volcano-Monitoring Instrumentation Database current through 31 December 2008 and (2) this text (in Adobe PDF format), which serves as metadata for the VMID. The disclaimer for the VMID is in appendix 1 of the text. Updated versions of the VMID will be posted on the Web sites of the Consortium of U.S. Volcano Observatories ( and the USGS Volcano Hazards Program

First posted January 2010

For additional information contact:
Marianne Guffanti
U.S. Geological Survey
926-A National Center
Reston, VA 20192


Volcano Hazards Program at

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Acrobat® Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:
Guffanti, Marianne, Diefenbach, A.K., Ewert, J.W., Ramsey, D.W., Cervelli, P.F., and Schilling, S.P., 2010, Volcano-monitoring instrumentation in the United States, 2008: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009–1165, 32-p. text plus Volcano-Monitoring Instrumentation Database, available only online at

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