Stromboli volcano (Credit: Shutterstock)

The National Science Foundation has awarded volcanologists Bruce Houghton at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and Rebecca Carey at the University of Tasmania a $471,897 grant to partner with scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The timely goal: to improve fundamental understanding of the behaviors of Hawaiian and Strombolian volcanoes and help assess hazards of future explosive events at basaltic centers.

Basaltic explosive eruptions are highly dynamic and prone to transitions in style and intensity that cannot yet be predicted. This diversity is exemplified by two island volcanoes that are very active: Kīlauea on Hawaiʻi Island and Stromboli in Italy.

Lava erupting out of the ground
Kīlauea eruption (Image courtesy of Volcano Video Production)

Activity at these volcanoes can be passive degassing through isolated and impulsive bubble bursts, powerful single explosions, unsteady spattering or sustained fountains.

“Their eruptions pose constant challenges for management agencies, exemplified by the situation at Kīlauea, because the eruption sites are highly accessible and there is a need to balance the strong popular interest in viewing the eruptive activity against public safety,” said Houghton, the Gordon Macdonald Professor of Volcanology in SOEST‘s Department of Geology and Geophysics. “This balance requires sophisticated knowledge of the volcanoes’ current and immediately future behavior.”

The three-year grant is expected to identify patterns and precursors indicative of possible changes in volcanic activity, supporting management of risk at the world’s most popular “tourist volcanoes.”

“Our Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (and Italian) partners in this study have federally mandated roles to advise response agencies and will transfer knowledge to the bodies charged with risk management,” said Houghton.

This project will involve exchange of material and ideas between institutions in the U.S., United Kingdom and Italy to the benefit of young researchers and students. The results will be widely disseminated via meetings and workshops, courses offered by the FEMA-funded National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at UH, online and in scientific publications.

For the full story, go to the SOEST website.

—By Marcie Grabowski