Lists of important volcano-monitoring disciplines usually include seismology, geodesy, and gas geochemistry. Visual monitoring - the essence of volcanology - is usually not mentioned. Yet, observations of the outward appearance of a volcano provide data that is equally as important as that provided by the other disciplines.
The eye was almost certainly the first volcano monitoring-tool used by early man. Early volcanology was mostly descriptive and was based on careful visual observations of volcanoes. There is still no substitute for the eye of an experienced volcanologist. Today, scientific instruments replace or augment our senses as monitoring tools because instruments are faster and more sensitive, work tirelessly day and night, keep better records, operate in hazardous environments, do not generate lawsuits when damaged or destroyed, and in most cases are cheaper. Furthermore, instruments are capable of detecting phenomena that are outside the reach of our senses. The human eye is now augmented by the camera. Sequences of timed images provide a record of visual phenomena that occur on and above the surface of volcanoes. Photographic monitoring is a fundamental monitoring tool; image sequences can often provide the basis for interpreting other data streams.
Monitoring data are most useful when they are generated and are available for analysis in real-time or near real-time. This report describes the current (as of 2006) system for real-time photograph acquisition and transmission from remote sites on Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes to the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO). It also describes how the photographs are archived and analyzed. In addition to providing system documentation for HVO, we hope that the report will prove useful as a practical guide to the construction of a high-bandwidth network for the telemetry of real-time data from remote locations.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Remote-Controlled Pan, Tilt, Zoom Cameras at Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes, Hawai'i