Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5117
version 1.0

A Versatile Time-Lapse Camera System Developed by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory for Use at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i

By Tim R. Orr and Richard P. Hoblitt


photo of a tripod-mounted camera looking like WallE viewing the caldera.
An example of a long-term time-lapse camera system deployment, as described in this report, on the steep flank of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō cone, Hawai‘i (from figure 1).


Volcanoes can be difficult to study up close. Because it may be days, weeks, or even years between important events, direct observation is often impractical. In addition, volcanoes are often inaccessible due to their remote location and (or) harsh environmental conditions. An eruption adds another level of complexity to what already may be a difficult and dangerous situation.

For these reasons, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) have, for years, built camera systems to act as surrogate eyes. With the recent advances in digital-camera technology, these eyes are rapidly improving. One type of photographic monitoring involves the use of near-real-time network-enabled cameras installed at permanent sites (Hoblitt and others, in press). Time-lapse camera-systems, on the other hand, provide an inexpensive, easily transportable monitoring option that offers more versatility in site location. While time-lapse systems lack near-real-time capability, they provide higher image resolution and can be rapidly deployed in areas where the use of sophisticated telemetry required by the networked cameras systems is not practical.

This report describes the latest generation (as of 2008) time-lapse camera system used by HVO for photograph acquisition in remote and hazardous sites on Kīlauea Volcano.

Download this report as a 16-page PDF file (sir2008-5117.pdf; 741 kB)

For questions about this report, contact Tim Orr.

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