Coordinating science during an eruption: lessons from the 2020–2021 Kīlauea volcanic eruption

Kari M. Cooper, Kyle Anderson, Kathy Cashman, Michelle Coombs, Hannah Dietterich, Tobias Fischer, Bruce Houghton, Ingrid Johanson, Kendra J. Lynn, Michael Manga, Christelle Wauthier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Data collected during well-observed eruptions can lead to dramatic increases in our understanding of volcanic processes. However, the necessary prioritization of public safety and hazard mitigation during a crisis means that scientific opportunities may be sacrificed. Thus, maximizing the scientific gains from eruptions requires improved planning and coordinating science activities among governmental organizations and academia before and during volcanic eruptions. One tool to facilitate this coordination is a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). In the USA, the Community Network for Volcanic Eruption Response (CONVERSE) has been developing and testing this concept during workshops and scenario-based activities. The December 2020 eruption of Kīlauea volcano, Hawaii, provided an opportunity to test and refine this model in real-time and in a real-world setting. We present here the working model of a SAC developed during this eruption. Successes of the Kīlauea SAC (K-SAC) included broadening the pool of scientists involved in eruption response and developing and codifying procedures that may form the basis of operation for future SACs. Challenges encountered by the K-SAC included a process of review and facilitation of research proposals that was too slow to include outside participation in the early parts of the eruption and a decision process that fell on a small number of individuals at the responding volcano observatory. Possible ways to address these challenges include (1) supporting community-building activities between eruptions that make connections among scientists within and outside formal observatories, (2) identifying key science questions and pre-planning science activities, which would facilitate more rapid implementation across a broader scientific group, and (3) continued dialog among observatory scientists, emergency responders, and non-observatory scientists about the role of SACs. The SAC model holds promise to become an integral part of future efforts, leading in the short and longer term to more effective hazard response and greater scientific discovery and understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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