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Volcano Hour: An electronic “doctor” who monitors the health of monitoring stations


As part of a volcano awareness month earlier this year, Volcano Watch featured five articles focusing on various roles at the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory. These articles describe the roles of geodesy, responsible science, geochemical gas, seismology, and geology. This month, we continue this series, focusing on the role of the technician.

HVO technicians design and maintain a network of stations that monitor active volcanoes in Hawaii. In the laboratory, HVO technicians work with scientists to develop technologies and engineering components for observing the volcano. In the field, technicians install new stations and maintain existing ones, ensuring that essential volcanic observation data is collected and sent to HVO for scientific analysis.

HVO technicians use a variety of tools, tools, power and communication systems. HVO technicians are also good at MacGyvers. For example, during the Kilauea 2018 eruption, an HVO technician quickly performed emergency electronic repair of seismic data acquisition systems (Great Scott!), Allowing seismic stations to continue collecting and transmitting valuable data to HVO at an urgent need.

This week’s article focuses on HVO “CJ” technician Moniz and his development of a tool that measures and tracks the “health” of volcanoes monitoring stations.

Have you ever opened the door to the doctor’s waiting room to see all the people waiting for you? Inhale, cough, need few stitches, or vaccine, you cannot help but realize how important it is to maintain health (especially now). Sometimes you feel this way to CJ, a HVO science technician who takes care of his electronic “patients” – volcano monitoring stations – all over Hawaii. Through technology and ingenuity, CJ keeps HVO monitoring stations happy and healthy, which reduces the time patients spend in the waiting room.

HVO has more than 240 stations in its surveillance networks on the Big Island. The stations measure and record earthquakes, Earth’s movement, volcanic gases, and sound waves, and provide lava, the size of underground magma and visual changes in volcanic activity. These stations constantly transfer data to HVO, where they are processed by specialized computer programs and analyzed by scientists.

Since these tools provide HVO with continuous information on the vital systems of our volcanoes, it is important that these stations operate at optimum levels and without interruption. But things can go wrong. Batteries can fail. Tools can stop working. Radios can stop transmitting. All of this and more can lead to data not being collected or transferred to HVO.

To reduce data disturbances, CJ developed a “health monitoring” station. These screens are installed in the main control hubs. The screens transfer data to HVO so that every morning CJ can see how stations are working and track their performance over time. The screens provide information about station voltage, current, and data transmission rates, some of which provide weather / atmosphere data.

These displays are manufactured in HVO, using hobby panels, SBCs and electronics so they are not too expensive. These screens are also carefully designed to attract minimum energy. The design has been modified and adjusted over the five years in which it was used, to make it more efficient and effective.

Because of this technology, CJ and other HVO technical personnel can see directions and take appropriate (sometimes remote) actions to “treat” a “sick” station. For example, CJ’s monitoring system recently indicated that the plant was experiencing a voltage drop, possibly due to the wet weather our island is experiencing. Based on his diagnosis, the HVO technical team was able to visit the site and change the battery system before the station went offline. This state of the health monitoring system ensures, in addition to proactive maintenance, no data loss and no interruption in service from this station.

This strategic approach to monitoring network health and proactive maintenance of stations, made possible by the technical know-how, hard work and creativity of CJ and other HVO technicians, maintains a strong and powerful HVO data flow in order to provide scientists with the latest and most up-to-date complete information possible.

Volcano activity updates

Kailua volcano does not explode. The USGS Volcano alert level remains at NORMAL. ( Kilauea updates are released monthly.

Kelwa observation data for the past month show variable but typical rates of earthquake and ground deformation, low rates of sulfur dioxide emissions, and only minor geological changes since the end of volcanic activity in September 2018. The water lake at the bottom of Halema’uma ‘continues to expand and deepen slowly. For the latest information on the lake, see

Mauna Loa does not erupt and remains at the volcano alert level. This level of alert does not mean that an imminent eruption or that progression to an eruption from the current level of disturbances is certain. Mauna Loa updates are released weekly.

Last week, about 153 small earthquakes were recorded under the upper altitudes of Mauna Loa. Most occurred at shallow depths of less than 8 kilometers (~ 5 miles). GPS measurements show slowly increasing peak inflation in the long run, in line with the magma’s supply of shallow volcano storage system. Gas concentrations and fumarol temperatures as measured in both cone sulfur and peak remain stable. Webcams do not show any changes to the scene. For more information about the current observation of Mauna Loa volcano, see:

There were 4 events with 3 or more physical reports in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: an earthquake of 1.8 km 8 km (5 mi) ENE from Pahala at a depth of 31 km (19 mi) on June 20 at 4:06 pm HST earthquake of 2.1 magnitude 6 km (4 mi) east of Pahala at a depth of 34 km (21 mi) on June 20 at 4:00 pm HST, an earthquake measuring 3.6 km 6 km (4 mi) northeast of Pahala at 32 km (20 mi) depth 20 June at 3:49 pm HST, and a 3.4-magnitude earthquake 5 km (3 mi) northeast of Pahala at a depth of 33 km (21 mi) depth, June 18 at 3:37 pm HST.

HVO continues to closely monitor Kilauea and Mauna Loa for signs of increased activity.

Please visit HVO’s website for previous Volcano Watch articles, previous Volcano Watch articles, Kilauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano images, maps, recent earthquake information, and more. Email questions to [email protected]

Volcano Watch ( is a weekly article and update of activities written by American Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and its subsidiaries. Today’s article by the Hawaiian Volcano Observer Electronics Technician CJ Moniz.

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