VEPP: Monitoring the Pu'u 'Ō'ō Eruption of Kīlauea Volcano Using Geochemical, Deformation and Seismicity Timeseries Data

Andrew R. Greene and Michael O. Garcia, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa



This is an exercise that is in development and has not yet been fully tested in the classroom. Please check back regularly for updates and changes.

Goals of this lab are to: (1) gain background on volcano monitoring using maps, photographs, and geochemical, deformation (tiltmeter) and seismic data from eruptive activity of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption; (2) make and interpret geochemical, deformation and seismic data plots as part of a time-series analysis for particular intervals of eruptive activity; and (3) answer questions and discuss information about magmatic and structural processes associated with volcanism at Kīlauea Volcano.

Brief description of the activity

The current eruption of Kīlauea Volcano on the island of Hawai'i has been closely monitored and studied since its inception in 1983. This laboratory exercise utilizes the excitement of an ongoing eruption to demonstrate volcano monitoring, deformation, and magmatic processes to better understand an active hotspot volcano.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

This lab exercise will provide an interactive, collaborative learning experience to improve understanding of volcanoes and how to integrate diverse data sets in earth science research. Outcomes will include a basic understanding of:

(1) volcano monitoring; (2) magmatic processes in basaltic systems; (3) volcano structures and deformation; and (3) using geochemical data to understand volcanic systems.

Briefly describe thecontent/concepts goals for this activity:

This lab involves: (1) integrating observations from multiple resources on active hotspot volcanism in Hawai'i (e.g. maps, photographs, background reading); (2) observing data plots for eruptive activity; (3) making and interpreting geochemical plots of lavas from eruptions on Kīlauea Volcano as part of a time-series analysis; and (4) synthesizing and discussing information about deformation and magmatic processes associated with active volcanism at Kīlauea Volcano.

Briefly describe the higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

See above.

Briefly describe any other skills goals for this activity (e.g., those involving writing, operating analytical equipment, searching the WWW, oral presentation, working in groups):

The lab involves work with geochemical, tilt, and seismic data and collaborative work on particular phases of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption.

Context for Use

This activity is intended for geoscience majors. Intended for undergraduate upper division students
Typical Number of Students: 20-30
Typical Number Classes Where Exercise is Used: 1
The activity will be conducted in lab
Data accessed during and outside of class:
(1) Pre-lab material to provide background information on geochemistry, deformation and seismicity of K īlauea Volcano utilizing maps, diagrams, photographs, and information on the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption with accompanying questions.
(2) In-lab guidelines and questions for examination of geochemistry, deformation and seismicity of several intervals of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption with group partners.
(3) Data set includes a time series analysis of lava chemistry, tiltmeter and seismic data from the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption. The data analysis in the lab exercise is done in groups using computers.

What is the type of activity (a problem set, classroom activity, lab activity, project, field activity, and/or a writing activity)?

This is a single lab activity.

What is the class type (small intro lecture, large intro lecture, or UD/grad course; disasters, hazards, field course, or intro geology; with or without computers; community college)?

This lab is designed for a small undergraduate or graduate course in volcanology, geochemistry, petrology, or volcano monitoring. This lab involves use of computers.

Briefly describe the type(s) and level(s) of course in which this activity or assignment could be used (e.g., undergraduate required course in structural geology, introductory physical geology course for non-majors, graduate level seminar on geochemistry):

The lab is designed for an undergraduate or graduate course.

Briefly describe or list the skills and concepts that students must have mastered before beginning the activity:

Background lecture on volcanoes is beneficial. Experience plotting data in Microsoft Excel is essential to the exercise.

Briefly describe how the activity is situated in your course (e.g., as a culminating project, as a stand-alone exercise, as part of a sequence of exercises):

This is a single lab activity.

Description and Teaching Materials

Pre-lab reading and questions (Microsoft Word 5.6MB Jul30 10)
In-lab guidelines and questions (Microsoft Word 1.8MB Jul30 10)
Table of Puu Oo XRF data (Excel 171kB Jul30 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Accessing the VEPP Web site ( requires a password, which can be obtained by sending an email with your name, affiliation, and intended use of the site to mpoland "at"

What tips might you offer to other educators planning to use this activity?

Students should spend time using the VEPP website to become familiar with volcano monitoring techniques and the history of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption.


Describe briefly how you determine whether students have met the goals of this assignment or activity.

Assessment may be based on successfully making plots, answering questions in groups, and interpreting the variety of datasets.

References and Resources

Please list any supporting references or URLs for this activity:

Selected references on Hawai'i, Kīlauea Volcano and the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption, along with references cited in this lab.

Selected references (Microsoft Word 69kB Aug1 10)

Volcanoes Exploration Program: Pu'u 'Ō'ō

A volcanology, geochemistry, petrology lab module on the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption is also available on the SERC website:

Title: Time-series analysis of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō-Kupaianaha eruption (1983-2009), Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai'i: Crustal processes

Authors: Andrew R. Greene, Michael O. Garcia, Tim Orr