USGS begins low-flying helicopter project to minimize future lava flow hazards at Kilauea

Kilauea volcano
Kilauea volcano(USGS)
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 11:40 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Geological Survey is starting a three-week project Tuesday in hopes of minimizing future lava flow hazards by assessing the surface of Kilauea volcano using a low-flying helicopter.

A large oval-shaped wire loop will hang from the helicopter and a small sensor will measure magnetic field strength as the aircraft flies over most of the volcano.

The loop will suspend up to 165 feet above the ground and treetops, and does not pose a risk to people or animals, officials said.

“We understand that helicopter noise can be disruptive, so we will greatly appreciate affected residents’ patience and understanding as we collect this extremely important data to help mitigate future eruption hazards,” said USGS research geophysicist Carol Finn.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii State Lands and Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate are within the flyover zone. The aircraft will occasionally be visible to residents of Puna.

The helicopter will not fly or collect data over residential areas and will only conduct operations during daylight hours, according to officials.

Volcanoes in Yellowstone, the Cascades and Alaska are among others that have been mapped using this technique.

“Our hopes are high that we will be able to image the shallow magma system in detail near the surface and link to deep sensing data to produce a picture of the entire magmatic system of Kilauea,” Finn said.

Officials say the outcomes of the survey will be made public within a few years.

A USGS scientist will be available July 7 at 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Pahoa Community Center to answer questions. Depending on flight conditions, a scientist will also be available at the Uekahuna Overlook July 11.

For questions about the project, contact USGS Project investigator Jim Kauahikaua at jimk@usgs.gov or askHVO@usgs.gov.

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