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Techniques and Methods 13–A2

A Multipurpose Camera System for Monitoring Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i

By Matthew R. Patrick, Tim Orr, Lopaka Lee, and Cyril Moniz

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (7.7 MB)Abstract

We describe a low-cost, compact multipurpose camera system designed for field deployment at active volcanoes that can be used either as a webcam (transmitting images back to an observatory in real-time) or as a time-lapse camera system (storing images onto the camera system for periodic retrieval during field visits). The system also has the capability to acquire high-definition video. The camera system uses a Raspberry Pi single-board computer and a 5-megapixel low-light (near-infrared sensitive) camera, as well as a small Global Positioning System (GPS) module to ensure accurate time-stamping of images. Custom Python scripts control the webcam and GPS unit and handle data management. The inexpensive nature of the system allows it to be installed at hazardous sites where it might be lost. Another major advantage of this camera system is that it provides accurate internal timing (independent of network connection) and, because a full Linux operating system and the Python programming language are available on the camera system itself, it has the versatility to be configured for the specific needs of the user. We describe example deployments of the camera at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i, to monitor ongoing summit lava lake activity. 

First posted March 9, 2015

Videos provided below are in MOV and MP4 formats

  • Halema‘uma‘u plume time-lapse MOV (54.7 MB)
  • Halema‘uma‘u plume time-lapse MP4 (14.9 MB)
    This video shows an image every 10 minutes, from February 3, 2014, at 0001 Hawai‘i Standard Time (HST) to February 9, 2014, at 2359 HST. The movie shows the commonly fluctuating wind directions typical of winter months, when the normally steady trade winds become unstable. The camera was positioned in the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory observation tower. In the lower right corner of the image is the public overlook at Jaggar Museum.
  • Halema‘uma‘u lava lake time-lapse MOV (19.1 MB)
  • Halema‘uma‘u lava lake time-lapse MP4 (7.4 MB)
    This video shows an image every minute, from February 14, 2014, at 1200 Hawai‘i Standard Time (HST) to February 15, 2014, at 1200 HST. The plot of RSAM (real-time seismic amplitude measurement), which can be taken as a proxy for the amplitude of seismic tremor, is shown below. Spikes in RSAM correspond with the appearance of additional spattering sources on the lake margin, whereas the sustained low level in RSAM after about 0800 on February 15 is an indicator of the absence of spattering at the lake and very quiet activity.

This publication is online only

For additional information, contact:
Contact HVO 
Volcano Science Center, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory 
U.S. Geological Survey 
P.O. Box 51, 1 Crater Rim Road 
Hawaii National Park, HI 96718-0051 

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Suggested citation:

Patrick, M.R., Orr, T., Lee, L., and Moniz, C., 2015, A multipurpose camera system for monitoring Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 13, chap. A2, 25 p.,

ISSN 2328-7055 (online)





Image Acquisition and Management Scripts

Acquisition Schemes





Appendixes (8)

Figures (5)

Tables (1)

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