Autonomous Wave Gliders Document Hawaiian Volcano

Fissure 8 vigor increased overnight June 18-19 with lava fountains reaching up to 60 m (200 ft). Spatter built up the cone to the east and into the channel. In this photograph, spatter lands on the east cone and flows downward. (Image: USCG)

On May 3, 2018 the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupted. Over the following months, Liquid Robotics Wave Gliders were deployed to capture live ocean data close to where lava was flowing into the ocean from the volcano. By using unmanned technology, scientists had the rare opportunity to study the effects of the lava entering the ocean, the plume it creates and the interactions of the lava and seawater directly from the surface of the ocean. Scientists note that very few volcanic eruptions and lava flows have ever been monitored in real time from the ocean.

The Wave Gliders operated in a precise zig-zag course approximately 300 m from the lava flow plume collecting rare subsurface, surface and atmospheric data. Working with top researchers from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (USGS-HVO), the Wave Gliders hosted a wide assortment of sophisticated sensors to measure water temperatures, oxygen levels, pH levels, salinity, turbidity, conductivity and underwater acoustics.

Data collected by the Wave Gliders also helped scientists observe in real time the impact of volcanic eruptions and lava flows on marine life (coral reefs and fish populations) and air quality affecting the Hawaiian islands.  —Liquid Robotics

Learn more about the volcano’s eruption in the USGS volcano update page, which details the June 2018 event.

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