UH Hilo continues USGS research assistance

Local News

UH Hilo has been lending a hand to USGS scientists by providing real time chemistry analysis of lava samples.

This helps determine how the lava will behave and how fast it will move.

The samples are collected everyday from the laval flows and brought back to the Hilo campus where they’re crushed into a powder and analyzed.

This testing process used to take weeks or months. Now it can be done in just hours.

“We can do a really quick chemical analysis,” said UH Hilo volcanologist Cheryl Gansecki. “We can look for tracers that tell us if anything is changing in the magma, in the system, and get that information back to HVO right away. That is usually within hours, or at least a day.” 

Using this process, the UH Hilo team was able to detect a new type of lava that is more fluid and can travel longer distances.

This preceded the change in eruptive behavior by a couple of days giving officials advance warning.

Related story: USGS scientists relocate to UH Hilo as summit explosions continue

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