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Charlie Mandeville, USGS Volcano Hazards Program Associate Coordinator: We have 169 active volcanoes in the U.S., about 88 of which could be potentially explosive in their eruption style. And because of that, even though they are located in sometimes remote areas away from population centers, they can have the ability to send ash up to 20,000 and 30,000 feet where commercial air traffic flies. And the ash clouds from these volcanoes can potentially disrupt air traffic over a significant portion of the contiguous U.S. as well as the northern hemisphere of the world.
David Applegate, USGS Associate Director for Natural Hazards: It is in that moment of crisis when the world turns to us; it's looking to the USGS for information; It's looking to the USGS to help them understand and react to and respond to a disaster, that we have to be there for them. Our networks have to be up and running. Our information has to be getting out in order to make a difference.
Volcanoes: Monitoring Volcanoes
Charlie Mandeville: So there are a number of consequences of a large explosive eruption in the lower 48 or even in Alaska or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. And the long term effects from such an eruption could be manifested for months to even years after the eruption. So it's essential then, that we know what a volcano is capable of doing and it's really crucial to be able to detect the unrest at our volcanoes in the earliest stages so that we can make effective actions that will protect society and reduce the risk.
We have, in the USGS, 5 volcano observatories; The Alaska Volcano Observatory, we have the Cascades Volcano Observatory, we have the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, and we have the California Volcano Observatory, and then we have the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
The GAP analysis is essentially the difference between what is currently on the volcano, in a monitoring, ground-based instrument sense, versus, what are the optimal number and type of instruments that we would like to have on the volcano given its past behavior and what we know about it, what we know about its past eruptions, what we know about the incidents of explosive eruptions at this particular volcano, the distribution of the products from those eruptions, and its proximity to population and infrastructure or air traffic.
Volcanoes: National Volcano Early Warning System
David Applegate: We have plans for a National Volcano Early Warning System. This is to build on our existing monitoring capabilities, not just monitoring, but also assessment and research capabilities, all of them leading towards the capability to warn whenever there is an eruption in any one of the 169 active volcanoes that we have here in the U.S.
Charlie Mandeville: The National Volcano Early Warning System is a new plan to augment and modernize the monitoring networks that we have on volcanoes. And by monitoring networks, that includes instrumentation in the form of seismometers, video cameras, tilt meters, and ground deformation sensors, namely GPS instruments, and it's essential that we detect those early signs of activity as early as possible, such that we're not racing to catch up, but we're actually seeing the first signs of unrest at a volcano. That buys us time with which we can provide warning to communities at risk and aviation in the area.
Volcanoes: Science for Public Safety
David Applegate: The heart of our mission is public safety, the heart of our mission is seeing our information used. And that means we absolutely rely on many different partnerships, both within the government and outside the government in order to achieve that end.
Title: Volcano Hazards
The United States has 169 active volcanoes. More than half of them could erupt explosively, sending ash up to 20,000 or 30,000 feet where commercial air traffic flies. USGS scientists are working to improve our understanding of volcano hazards to help protect communities and reduce the risks.
Location: Reston, VA, USA
Date Taken: 7/31/2012
Video Producer: Don Becker , U.S. Geological Survey
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Directed and Produced by: Don Becker
For more information:Volcano Hazards Program
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