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Interior Secretary Salazar Sends $15.2 Million to USGS Volcano Observatories to Improve Monitoring


More than $15 million will help the U.S.G.S.'s five volcano observatories keep better tabs on volcanoes in the United States. USGS map.

The five U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Observatories are receiving $15.2 million to help upgrade their monitoring of volcanics across the West, in Alaska, and in Hawaii, including within Yellowstone, Mount Rainier, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Lake Clark national parks.

The funding for the National Volcano Early Warning System, announced Friday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, comes from the $3 billion the Interior Department received as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

If you recall the attention generated by a series of earthquake swarms that shook Yellowstone right around the first of the year, or took note of the recent spate of eruptions of the Mount Redoubt Volcano in Lake Clark, you can appreciate the need to provide the observatories with the best monitoring equipment possible.

Noting that he is visiting Alaska next week, Salazar emphasized the critical nature of USGS’ work in emergencies. “Their monitoring of Redoubt, which has erupted several times, alerted people in the pathway of the volcano to take precautions ahead of time. Protecting public safety is invaluable.”

The five USGS Volcano Observatories have been allotted $15.2 million to modernize monitoring networks and warning systems. Many of the dangerous volcanoes in the United States may not be monitored well enough for scientists to warn the public of explosive eruptions, alert aircraft of ash clouds or warn communities of ash falls and lava and mud flows. The importance of these observatories was evident during the recent Mar. 22 eruption of Mount Redoubt Volcano, 106 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory started issuing warnings of an impending eruption starting Jan. 23 after recording increased seismic activity at the volcano, giving communities and businesses time to prepare. The observatory’s top priority is to prevent repetition of the incident that occurred during Redoubt’s eruption 19 years ago, when a Boeing 747 passenger aircraft strayed into an ash cloud and nearly crashed. Stimulus funds will improve AVO’s preparedness and vigilance, both at Redoubt and at other similar volcanoes in Alaska.

The five observatories keep tabs on Alaskan volcanoes, those in Hawaii, those in the Cascades, the Yellowstone caldera, and California's Long Valley Caldera.


Don't forget Mount St. Helens, just because it is administrated by the forest service. On October 2 2004 the USGS issued a full blown level three alert about an imminent major eruption.

  • Fortunately the pressure was reduced by steam and ash venting and the uprising magma did not erupt but spilled slowly in form of dacite in a new lava dome.


  • The link to the USGS Cascades observatory in the story has a lot of information about Mount St. Helens. Although their services aren't specifically tied to NPS areas, a number of the volcanoes the observatories monitor happen to be located in parks.

    The USGS volcano observatories seem to provide a very useful function, and I trust the added funds will be used efficiently.

    We got people out of work all around this country, and we waste 15.2 MIL on this crap?

    I'm not quite sure I understand your point, Nick. Are you implying that volcanoes in the U.S. don't really threaten to injure or kill tens of thousands of Americans -- that it's some sort of hoax? Are you implying that it's not the Federal government's business to warn people of impending danger to property and human lives?

    Volcano plumes also can bring airplanes down. It's essential for the safety of air traffic that we have up-to-date information on ash from volcanoes. I live about 50 miles from Mt. St. Helens, though I'm not in the path of any possible lahars.

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