Random thoughts: Hawaiian volcano web cam views

Kilaueau vent from HVO

Kilaueau vent from HVO cam on crater rim, April 10, 2012. It's white because of the type of camera used.

I was taking breaks this morning during work by enjoying spectacular views from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s many webcams and wanted to share a few of them.

Kilauea summit crater

This image is taken from a webcam on top of the volcano’s summit crater, where the HVO buildings are located. This gas and incandescence is actually coming out of a hole in the crater floor, where molten rock sits in a conduit, rising and fall. Here is a look from a webcam the scientists have set up to look directly down into that hole (called a vent).

Kilauea vent outlook (thermal).

Kilauea vent outlook webcam view (thermal), April 10, 2012.

The lava is at a rather high level right now and the summit has been inflating. Kilauea’s current activity has been going on since the 1980s, though, and there hasn’t yet been an eruption from the summit crater. It has all happened at a new crater, called Pu’u O’o, that opened up on the volcano’s east flank and is currently full (it fills and drains frequently).

However, there have been lava lakes and eruptions in the summit crater in the past but quite recently, as geological time goes, because Kilauea erupts often. Mark Twain described a visit to the summit in June 1866. Of note, the Volcano House hotel that he visited was new that year, and just after the turn of the century, scientists, according to HVO, “mined the more reliable reports from the Volcano House guest registers, quoting them along with observations from their own visits and reports from many additional sources to yield histories of both volcanoes, comprehensive up to their dates of publication.”

They could also watch it erupt. Here is a view of a crater eruption around 1912. I’m just including a link to the Library of Congress page, rather than the image itself, because it’s too big to include here, and just incredibly detailed. Although it is in black-and-white, anyone who has spent much time watching Kilauea nowadays through the webcam can easily imagine the silver color of the fresh lava (I don’t know why it appears that way in daylight, from a distance, and not red) and the black crusted areas of slightly cooled lava.

Kilauea is the only Hawaiian volcano erupting right now and you can check out the eruption history and much, much more at the HVO website.

Pu’u O’o on the volcano’s east flank

Here is a thermal view of Pu’o Crater earlier this morning:

Pu'u O'o thermal cam view

Pu'u O'o thermal cam view, April 10, 2012

Dawn is coming to Hawaii now, and this is what Pu’u O’o looks like with a regular webcam.

Other volcano webcams

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is one of the few such observatories – if not the only one just now – to have public thermal-view webcams. Of note, these and other volcano cams are primarily for scientific research, but everybody benefits when the public can also share in some of these often spectacular views.

There are many regular volcano webcams out there, which is quite a change from some 10 years ago, when the USDA Forest Service installed a webcam at Mount St. Helens at about the time when the Internet was really starting to take off in terms of mainstream use. The public response to the St. Helens VolcanoCam apparently was enormous, and the resulting expansion in public volcano cam installation is still going on.

Here is a portal to volcano webcams throughout the world, current as of February 2012, if you are interested. Not all of them will be up at any given time, and some may be dark if the weather locally is bad or if it’s nighttime, and many of these volcanoes will not be erupting at the time you visit. I think all of them are beautiful, though, even New Zealand’s White Island crater.

You will also see, at the bottom of the HVO main page, links to more USGS Volcano Web sites.

Aloha, and enjoy!

Categories: Random thoughts

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