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How USGS scientists monitor Kilauea Volcano’s ongoing eruptions

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On the Big Island of Hawaii, Kilauea Volcano continues to erupt. For U.S. Geological Survey scientists like volcanologist Dr. Alexa Van Eaton, the event is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn as much as we can about how the shield volcano‘s fissures, fountains, and lava flows might behave. In the USGS video above, Van Eaton explains what they’re watching for as they monitor along the volcano’s lower East Rift Zone. From NPR:

“Every volcano is different,” says Kyle Anderson, a geophysicist with USGS. “But the physics are the same, so to the extent that we can better understand the driving processes and the mechanisms, I think we can transfer that globally…”

Kilauea was already one of the most studied volcanoes in the world. It has been erupting for 30-some years. But the eruptions were steady, and geophysicists like Anderson started to feel as though they had learned much of what they could learn from them.

“This enormous [change] to the system gives us an unbelievable opportunity to get to understand things I don’t think we would have realized otherwise,” he says.

USGS-HVO geologist Matt Patrick talks about what it’s like to monitor the ongoing activity in the video below. He’s a part of a 24-hour watch to record data that can help inform scientists around the world, as well as keeping the local public safe and informed.

Some of the fountains are bursting up to 48 to 61 meters (160 to 200 feet) high. See where the activity is centered in this @USGSVolcanoes tweet:

Plus, see more activity from the area in the three USGS videos below, including blue burning flame of methane gas, some before and after lava fountain footage, and more flights over the fissures.

Related reading: Kilauea Lava Fields Offer Scientists a Portal to Mars.

Related watching: Kilauea – The Fire Within and NYT’s Living with Lava. Plus: Building a Volcano-bot, molten lava heads 2-miles to the ocean, and when a volcano erupts underwater.

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