Skip to content

New Hours at Jaggar Museum and Kīlauea Visitor Center

January 26, 2015

Effective immediately, Jaggar Museum in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Kīlauea Visitor Center is also open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association bookstores within both visitor facilities have the same hours.

The new hours address periods of peak visitation, and enable the park to keep both centers open seven days a week. The park itself will remain open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Junior Rangers

Ranger Dean swears in a new group of eager Junior Rangers at Kīlauea Visitor Center. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

Visitors who arrive before operational hours at Jaggar Museum and Kīlauea Visitor Center are encouraged to enjoy the view of Kīlauea Volcano’s summit eruption from the outdoor observation deck adjacent to Jaggar Museum, or at other vantage points along Crater Rim Trail. Popular places like ‘Ākanikōlea (Steam Vents), Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube), and Kīlauea Iki Trail are often best enjoyed before 9 a.m. when the park is not as busy.

Life on the Edge

The popular Life on the Edge talk, offered daily at Jaggar Museum outdoor observation deck. NPS Photo/Janice Wei.

Free, ranger-guided programs originate at both Jaggar Museum and the Kīlauea Visitor Center. At Jaggar Museum, visitors can enjoy daily “Life on the Edge” ranger talks at 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to learn about the current eruption from Halema‘uma‘u Crater and Kīlauea Volcano’s eruptive nature. At Kīlauea Visitor Center, “Explore the Summit” walks are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and the daily “How it All Started” geology talk is presented daily at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. All other activities for the day are posted after the visitor centers open.


Kīlauea Visitor Center. NPS Photo/Michael Szoenyi.

USGS Report: “Future Wave and Wind Effects on the Pacific Islands”

January 26, 2015
Menacing wave

A relatively small amount of sea level rise can make a huge difference. Photo by S. Lee.

[press release from the United States Geological Survey and the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative, Jan. 26, 2015]

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — According to a new report released by the U.S. Geological Survey, climate changes during the 21st century are expected to alter the highest waves and strongest winds across U.S. and U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. The detailed calculations provided in the report will be useful for managers developing coastal resilience plans or ecosystem restoration efforts, and for engineers designing future infrastructure.

Information on changes in waves and winds under global climate change is crucial to understanding the sustainability of existing infrastructure and natural and cultural resources, as well as to planning for future investments such as renewable wind and wave energy for islands, or for understanding the viability of coastal-related economic activities such as fishing and tourism. Wave- and wind-driven processes drive flooding and inundation of coastal land, potentially resulting in damage to islands’ infrastructure, fresh-water supplies, and natural resources, and harming federally protected species such as nesting seabirds. Such impacts may only be exacerbated in the future with projected trends in sea-level rise.

“With little to no publicly available historical wind and wave data for most of the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands, and no future projections of waves and winds for different climate scenarios, there was a great science and management need to understand how waves and wind might change in future climates,” said Curt Storlazzi, USGS oceanographer and lead author of the study.

usgs report

New report on wind and waves in the US-affiliated Pacific islands. Link to full report below.

Scientists from USGS and the University of California, Santa Cruz, ran four global climate models (developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), using them to drive a global-wave model to look at the projected changes in wave heights, wave periods, and wave directions, and wind speed and wind direction on three Hawaiian Islands and 22 other locations on U.S.-affiliated islands in the Pacific Ocean. Modeling results project that wind and wave patterns will change over the years throughout the century, and also over certain months and seasons within each year.

“Natural resource managers, communities, and engineers will all benefit by being able to prepare for the shifts in inundation risk shown by this study.  This work shows that the degree of change we see will depend on how greenhouse-gas emissions change,” said Jeff Burgett, Science Coordinator for the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative.

Scientists first ran the models for the years 1976 – 2005 and compared them to the few available historical instrumental data in order to make sure the models were functioning properly, then ran them for the different future time spans (2026 – 2045 and 2085 – 2100) for two different climatic scenarios — increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations until mid century, followed by reduced emissions (known as scenario RCP4.5), and unfettered growth of emissions (scenario RCP8.5).

The spatial patterns and trends are mostly similar between the two different greenhouse gas concentration scenarios (scenario RCP4.5 and scenario RCP8.5), although the results of the study reveal some differences among islands. The magnitude and spatial extent of the trends are generally greater for the higher-emissions scenario (RCP8.5).

In general, extreme wave heights (the top five percent) are projected to increase from now until mid 21st century and then decrease toward the end of the 21st century. Peak wave periods (another measure of intensity) increase east of the International Date Line and are forecast to decrease west of the International Date Line. In equatorial Micronesia, extreme waves and winds are projected to undergo substantial (greater than 20 degrees) shifts in direction.

The full USGS Open-File Report 2015-1001, “Future Wave and Wind Projections for United States and United States-Affiliated Pacific Islands,” by Curt D. Storlazzi, James B. Shope, Li H. Erikson, Christie A. Hegermiller, and Patrick L. Barnard is available online. This research was supported by the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative.

Monitoring lava flows with boots on the ground and eyes in the sky

January 23, 2015

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey`s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. 

This month, our Volcano Watch articles are focusing on how the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) monitors Kīlauea’s June 27th lava flow.  Last week, we covered satellite monitoring; this week, we will discuss how HVO scientists track lava flow activity from the air and from the ground.

Volcanology is fundamentally an observational science.  To better understand how volcanoes work, scientists must examine volcanic eruptions and their deposits.  Field observations are, therefore, at the core of HVO’s response to lava flow activity on the Island of Hawaiʻi.

In that regard, little has changed since lava flows inundated Kalapana in 1990.  As flows advanced toward, and ultimately through, that community, HVO geologists were on the ground, making detailed maps that were used to alert Civil Defense officials and local residents of the potential lava-flow hazards.  While the basic nature of geologic observations has not changed, the tools we use today are much different than those used 25 years ago.

In 1990, HVO geologists mapped lava flows by hand, on the ground and from the air, using recent aerial photos of the area for orientation. Lava flow outlines were sketched onto an acetate sheet overlain on the aerial photo.  As lava covered more and more of the community, it became increasingly difficult to determine precise flow locations due to the lack of identifiable landmarks.  In some cases, downed power lines were the only indication of where roads had been!  Back in the office, the flow outlines from the aerial photos were transferred to a paper topographic map for copying and distribution.

Today, lava flows are mapped using space-based methods.  As described in last week’s Volcano Watch, timely satellite data can be used to track flow progress, especially when crews are not able to get to the field.  When scientists are able to observe the flow directly, either on the ground or by helicopter, they map the flow boundaries using the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Although GPS was available in 1990, the instrumentation for recording positions was bulky and expensive, and data were not especially accurate because the U.S. military intentionally degraded the signal.  This scrambling, called “selective availability,” was turned off in 2000, allowing GPS users around the world access to the same accuracy as the military, down to a few meters (yards).  Technological developments also improved the quality of GPS receivers, resulting in the compact handheld units that are so common today and easily used in the field.

Using handheld GPS units, HVO geologists can now quickly map flows via helicopter or by walking around flow margins.  Upon returning to HVO, they download the GPS data and plot the flow margins on a map using Geographic Information System (GIS) software.  Other map layers, like roads and towns, are added to the plots to produce the maps published on HVO’s website .  These maps form the basis for much of HVO’s monitoring of the June 27th lava flow.

In addition to GPS data, geologists track flow activity using both regular and thermal cameras, capturing images from the ground and from the air (both types of images are posted on HVO’s website, after crews return from the field).  HVO scientists recently developed the ability to create a mosaic of thermal images which provide high-resolution views of active lava breakouts over the entire flow field.

Over the past 25 years, technological advances have enabled more accurate and timely tracking of lava flows from the ground, air, and space, as well as rapid distribution of that information via the Internet.  Although the fundamental observations made by HVO geologists remain much the same, the manner in which data are collected has greatly improved.

Next week, we conclude the 2015 Volcano Awareness Month series of Volcano Watch articles with an introduction to a new HVO staff scientist who specializes in studying ground deformation using a variety of tools, including GPS!  Between now and then, we hope to see you at our final two Volcano Awareness month talks offered in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Jan. 27 and in Kona on Jan. 28.  For more information about these talks, please visit, email, or call 808-967-8844.


Boots on the ground

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Matt Patrick uses a handheld GPS receiver to map the boundary of an active lobe of the June 27th lava flow near Pāhoa on the Island of Hawai‘i. USGS photo.


S.T.E.M. Festival 2015

January 18, 2015

Yesterday, the American Samoa Department of Education (DOE) kicked off their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program with a festival at Samoana High School. About 40 government agencies and local businesses, including the National Park of American Samoa, were in attendance and provided fun activities to nearly 1,000 students and parents.

The national park provided interactive programs for all ages that included: 1) fruit bats with a coloring activity, 2) ocean acidification with a what you do to help the environment game, and 3) the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish with a make your own crown-of-thorns out of clay activity. Prizes were given to the winners of each activity.

The STEM program will help students become interested in those fields through hands-on, immersive activities and a variety of on-the-job experiences. It is the hope that they will pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and utilize their expertise in the territory.

The National Park of American Samoa is a key DOE partner and provides in-class activities and field trips to as many as 6,000 kindergarten through high school students each year.




Social Media Platforms

January 14, 2015

Mount ‘Alava Adventure Trail Hike

January 14, 2015

Yesterday, Park Ranger Pua took off-island students from Linfield College to a challenging loop trail along ridge lines with views of the north and central parts of the national park and island.

Hiked up and down ladders with ropes for balance totaling 56 ladders and 783 steps! This trail led to the Mount ‘Alava Summit, returning down a steep section of trail to Vatia Village, and loops back along the road to the trailhead. (Distance : 5.6 mi / 9 km roundtrip)

These college students are primarily Business & Economics Majors studying how our islands natural resources and environmental amenities factor into a nation’s economy. Fa’afetai (Thank You) to Mr. Eric Schuck for coordinating this ranger-led visit to the national park.

For more adventure photos, visit our Facebook page.

Survival tactics in a changing climate (rare plants)

January 13, 2015
Hibiscadelphus giffardianus

Hibiscadelphus giffardianus… One of the rarest plants on Earth.

Changing Habitats

Climate change projections in coming years indicate a 10-20% reduction in winter rains and a 5% increase in summer rainfall in Hawaii due to changes in the tradewind patterns. These changes are predicted to cause dramatic shifts in some habitats, making many currently suitable areas no longer hospitable for rare species. In response, rare plant populations need to be increased and expanded across their ecological ranges to increase their capacity to respond to habitat shifts/reductions and more frequent stochastic events (fire, hurricane, etc.) predicted by current climate change scenarios.

“These rare plants are no longer safe in just one or a handful of places. But there is hope. We can increase their chances of survival by spreading their populations to new places where we believe they can survive despite a changing climate. It’s a classic, don’t-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket approach.”        –Sierra McDaniel, NPS Botanist 

The National Park Service at Haleakalā and Hawaii Volcanoes have combined resources and know-how to give three dozen species a fighting chance to remain viable in the midst of climate change. Current models based on predicted changes in temperature and moisture regimes over the next decades forecast dramatic range shift and/or reduction for many native plant species. This creates a perilous situation for species with small population sizes within a limited geographic range. The purpose of this project is to establish satellite populations of 36 rare and endangered species within their modeled ecological ranges.

Previous Projects

Clermontia samuelii samuelii

Clermontia samuelii samuelii

Previously established propagation and planting projects were centered on stabilizing existing rare plant populations in localized areas. Still, many of the selected species number less than 50 individuals and remain geographically isolated. Park resource managers conducted planting efforts with 135 species to boost their numbers and restore biodiversity in both parks. Much of the effort has centered on locating individuals or populations, collecting planting material, and developing effective propagation techniques. Plant establishment focused primarily on fenced, ungulate-free areas nearby remnant populations or in adjacent areas containing similar habitats. Locations of past plantings are limited to sites near documented occurrences (current and historical) and do not necessarily reflect the actual ecological range that these plants could occupy now or in the future.

The Building Capacity Project


Trematolobelia wimmeri

This project builds upon earlier work by expanding rare plant populations across a wider ecological range thereby “building capacity” for these species to survive. Recent habitat modeling combines information on historical plant occurrences with habitat type (soil/substrate type, elevation/temperature and moisture conditions) to identify the most suitable ecological ranges for rare species. Establishing rare plant populations in favorable micro-site conditions across this broader ecological range will build greater capacity for these species to persist in the wake of climate change. This is a proactive effort to keep these species alive.

Efforts at both parks focus on expanding rare plant populations in subalpine, dry ‘ōhi‘a woodlands, and mesic/wet montane zones where climate change is most likely to cause dramatic habitat shifts. The species selected for expanding populations were those for which successful propagation and planting techniques have already been developed, and plant survivorship has been found to be strong.

Seeds or cuttings have already  been collected for all of the 36 target species, and thousands of seedlings are being propagated in park greenhouses. In 2014, both parks made significant progress by planting nearly 3000 seedlings of 32 species at multiple sites, and the project is on track to accomplish its goals by the autumn of 2015.

The Fragile Future (NPS Inventory & Monitoring Program’s Role)

The ultimate success of this innovative project along with the effects of shifting climates on other rare plants can only be measured through long-term monitoring efforts. The Pacific Island Inventory & Monitoring program is developing methodology to detect and describe changes in the distribution and abundance of rare, threatened, and endangered plant species like the ones targeted in this project. Ideally, we will be able to aid the parks by repeated monitoring in which we verify existing populations, describe species stand structure, suggest limiting factors, and detect critical changes in abundance and distribution while management action is still a viable option.

- S. McDaniel, NPS Botanist

-A. Ainsworth, NPS Botanist


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 235,313 other followers