USGS California Volcano Observatory Opens

 

“More than 500 volcanic vents have been identified in the State of California. At least 76 of these vents have erupted, some repeatedly, during the last 10,000 years. …  Sooner or later, volcanoes in California will erupt again, and they could have serious impacts on the health and safety of the State’s citizens as well as on its economy.”   Miller, C. Dan, 1989, Potential Hazards from Future Volcanic Eruptions in California: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1847, 17p.


MENLO PARK, Calif. — The U.S. Geological Survey announces the establishment of the USGS California Volcano Observatory, or CalVO, headquartered within existing USGS facilities in Menlo Park, Calif. Establishing CalVO will increase awareness of and resiliency to the volcano threats in California, many of which pose significant threats to the economy and well being of the state and its inhabitants.

“By uniting the research, monitoring, and hazard assessment for all of the volcanoes that pose a threat to the residents of California, CalVO will provide improved hazard information products to the public and decision makers alike,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “This realignment is part of the USGS’s efforts to build the National Volcano Early Warning System, a prioritized modernization of USGS volcano monitoring enabled through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.”

CalVO takes on responsibility for research, monitoring, and assessing hazards for all of the potentially active volcanoes in California and coordinating with local and State emergency managers to prepare for responding to renewed volcanic activity. Previously, the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash was responsible for responding to volcanic unrest at some northern California volcanoes.

CalVO replaces the former Long Valley Observatory, established in 1982 to monitor the restless Long Valley Caldera and Mono-Inyo Craters region of California. The creation of CalVO will improve coordination with federal, state, and local emergency managers during volcanic crises, and create new opportunities for volcanic hazard awareness and preparedness. The realignment of USGS Volcano Observatories will further facilitate collaboration with federal and state partner agencies including the California Emergency Management Agency and the California Geological Survey.

“California has always led the nation in comprehensive planning for potential disasters. Having the USGS take the initiative to enhance their volcanic threat capabilities and, most importantly, improve planning and coordination with California’s emergency managers is welcomed news.  At the end of the day, the public expects us to plan for all hazards, and this is another great example,” said Mike Dayton, Undersecretary of the California Emergency Management Agency. 

“California is the most geologically diverse state in the nation. We are known for our earthquakes, landslides and flood hazards. But our nearly forgotten hazard is our volcanoes,” said Dr. John Parrish, the State Geologist of California. “The California Geological Survey welcomes the new CalVO with its expanded scope and organization, and we look forward to its successful operations. The new CalVO will streamline our emergency response operations since CGS has offices at the USGS Menlo Park complex, and CalVO’s authority now encompasses all of California’s volcanic provinces in one center.” 

In 2005, the USGS issued an assessment entitled “Volcanic Threat and Monitoring Capabilities in the United States” (USGS OFR 2005-1164). Volcanic threat rankings for U.S. volcanoes were derived from a combination of factors including age of the volcano, potential hazards (the destructive natural phenomena produced by a volcano), exposure (people and property at risk from the hazards), and current level of monitoring (real-time sensors in place to detect volcanic unrest).

The list of potentially threatening volcanoes on CalVO’s watch list includes Mount Shasta, Medicine Lake Volcano, Clear Lake Volcanic Field, and Lassen Volcanic Center in northern California; Long Valley Caldera and Mono-Inyo Craters in east-central California; Salton Buttes, Coso Volcanic Field, and Ubehebe Craters in southern California; and Soda Lakes in central Nevada. CalVO’s watch list is subject to change as new data on past eruptive activity becomes known, as volcanic unrest develops, as monitoring networks are upgraded, and/or as exposure factors change.

Under the Stafford Act, the USGS has the federal responsibility to issue timely and effective warnings of potential volcanic disasters.  In addition to CalVO, the USGS operates four other volcano observatories. The Cascade Volcano Observatory oversees efforts at all potentially active volcanoes in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory is responsible for volcanoes in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Alaska Volcano Observatory oversees Alaskan volcanoes and those within the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The oldest USGS volcano observatory, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, is responsible for the state of Hawaii and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. All USGS volcano observatories share scientific expertise, administrative staff, and equipment. 

For more information on the USGS Volcano Hazard Program visit http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/.  See also USGS fact sheets: “The National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS)” FS-2006-3142 and “U.S. Geological Survey’s Alert Notification System for Volcanic Activity,” FS-2006-3139.

Visit the new CalVO website.

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26 thoughts on “USGS California Volcano Observatory Opens

  1. This can’t possibly happen, “ Sooner or later, volcanoes in California will erupt again, and they could have serious impacts on the health and safety of the State’s citizens as well as on its economy.” CARB would never issue a permit and if they did, there would be years of warning as it wound its way through the legal system.

  2. A rapid melting of the snow on Shasta, along with a full lake could be a nightmare. You can still see 50 foot high mounds of Mt St Helen’s ash along I-5 dredged from the Toutle, Cowlitz and the Columbia.

  3. Not to pass judgement on the merit of volcano monitoring, but do we really have the money for this right now and is there some clear and present danger as to why we need it right this red hot minute and it can’t wait until we do have the money?

  4. “California has always led the nation in comprehensive planning for potential disasters.”
    I would like to see their crisis management plan for a current and ongoing disaster, the insolvency of the state due to the watermelons and greens forcing anyone with any financial or business sense to leave the state.

  5. Thank the Lord, CA has discovered yet another way to waste our tax dollars.
    I was afraid for a moment, did the Democrats lose their touch?

  6. Volcano observatory. Won’t be long before they decide to put another CO2 monitoring station there.
    Seems to be the “go-to” place for them…

  7. I’m reminded of a cartoon in MAD magazine many decades ago:
    Small Town Mayor: Here’s my mother — the city hired her to watch for tidal waves.
    Reporter: But this is Kansas. There’s never been a tidal wave here.
    Small Town Mayor: See what a good job Mom’s doing!

  8. Under the Stafford Act, the USGS has the federal responsibility to issue timely and effective warnings of potential volcanic disasters.
    Which is not the Stafford student loan program, which (indirectly?) encourages the accumulation of inescapable student debt without timely or effective warnings about the real-world utility and lack of realized increased lifetime earnings with certain degrees nor advises about the same or greater benefits obtained by less-expensive education in the same or other fields. </rant>
    I foresee this new facility will be a most excellent resource, for all the many large and little anti-nuclear Green and/or NIMBY groups who will gleefully point to the stream of assorted watches and warnings as proof that Kalifornia is too geologically unstable to allow any nuclear plants in the state, or anywhere nearby that could potentially be upwind (or upwater?) of the state. A new nuke plant in Nevada to power Las Vegas? Never! Let them erect hundreds of wind turbines and instead harness the unending power of the dust storms!

  9. “I was having this discussion in a taxi heading downtown
    Rearranging my position on this volcano in CA who had a little bit of a eruption
    I said, “Hey, no eruption is called a eruption if it goes, so
    What are you going to do about it that’s what I’d like to know?”
    With apologies to Paul Simon.

  10. There are active volcanic fields in the Southern Cascades, the North Coast Ranges, along the eastern front of the Sierra, in the western Great Basin, and in the Mojave Desert. Effectively, just about any place considered for geothermal energy has some potential for volcanic fun and games.
    There is at least one late 17th(?) account in a Spanish ship’s log of an inland eruption that could have been either Shasta or Lassen. In fact Lassen erupted quite impressively in 1915. Nor would you want forget the Long Valley “super volcano.” Presently it is the second largest in North America after Yellowstone. LV is also interesting since the volcanic field has been gradually warming up. Streams that were once geothermally warmed tourist attractions are now hot enough to kill the unwary. Also, for the believers in the seriousness of CO2 increases on global temperature, CO2 discharges have increased enough to kill trees rather than fertilize them in some parts of the caldera. While nowhere near as bad off as Oregon and Washington we have our share of volcanic disaster possibilities. So, a VO in California might at least provide a chance to KYAGB.

  11. R Barker says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:47 am
    “Quick, they need to develop some very big corks.”
    Yeah, they tried to sacrifice some virgins but couldn’t find any…so the corks might be a good back up plan!

  12. Someone must have watched the movie “Volcano” and figured hey, maybe we can get grants or something using the same scenario.

  13. crosspatch says:
    February 9, 2012 at 10:36 am
    Not to pass judgement on the merit of volcano monitoring, but do we really have the money for this right now and is there some clear and present danger as to why we need it right this red hot minute and it can’t wait until we do have the money?
    _______________________________________
    if you look globally the California Volcanoes, as most of the NA ones, have been dormant far to long. the recent harmonic tremor at Yellowstone is an ominous sign of just how close to a major eruption there is.

  14. From wermet on February 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm:

    What does KYAGB mean?

    “Kiss Your Assets Good Bye” in polite company, otherwise you can drop an “Emissions Trading Scheme” from the saying.

  15. “Is Sacramento located in a caldera, by chance?”
    no. by all accounts and measurable data, it’s a raw sewage outfall
    %-)

  16. Boy, I used to think Los Angeles was cool. Now, it seems Los Angelinians must live a pretty precarious existence. Don’t know if I could live with the ever-present peril of earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, the LA Public Schools… Henry Waxman sneezing, AND NOW VOLCANOES?!
    To say nothing of movie releases like “2012 – Ice Age” (trailer link):
    http://www.redbox.com/movies/2012-ice-age

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