Seismology, Kilauea

Jackie Caplan-Auerbach

Professor, WWU Geology Department

Start Time & Date

Start Time & Date

For spring, 2020 all WWU classes are being taught online. As such, the Huxley Speaker Series is revisiting favorite presentations from the Archives.

This talk was originally presented as part of the Huxley Speaker Series in Fall 2018.

In late April 2018, the 35-year old eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i, underwent a radical change.  The locus of volcanic activity shifted from the Pu`u O`o and summit vents to the volcano’s Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ), where it erupted in the Leilani Estates subdivision.  Over the next several months, lava drained from the summit reservoir to the LERZ, where it consumed over 800 homes, destroyed the town of Kapoho, and added nearly 900 acres of new land to the island.  The draining of lava from the Kilauea summit area caused the summit caldera to undergo collapse. Seismic activity associated with the changing eruption included a magnitude 6.9 earthquake on the south flank, and near-daily M5 earthquakes associated with summit collapse.  In response to this eruption, a team of scientists from WWU, Rice University, and the University of Rhode Island deployed a network of ocean-bottom seismometers offshore of the volcano.  These instruments, recently retrieved from the seafloor, should provide insight into the effect the eruption had on the submarine flank, including its potential to fail in a catastrophic landslide.

Jackie Caplan-Auerbach at sea

Jackie Caplan-Auerbach is a professor in the Geology Department at WWU, and the Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering.  She is a seismologist whose research focuses on the seismic and acoustic signals generated by volcanoes and landslides, largely in the undersea domain.  Jackie’s undergraduate years were spent at Yale University where she earned degrees in both Physics and English.  She then spent six years as a high school physics teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Honolulu to pursue graduate study.  In 2001 Jackie earned her Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, after which she spent five years working for the Alaska Volcano Observatory.  She has been at Western since 2006, teaching courses ranging from introductory geology to earthquake seismology to mantle convection, and she is happiest when on the water.

More Information

The Huxley Environmental Speaker Series is hosted by Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

The Series is free and open to the public.

Location & Time

Presentations are held each Thursday at 4:30pm On-campus and ONLINE.


Due to the pandemic, the in-person presentations are not open to the public. However, the talks will be live-streamed ONLINE for the off-campus audience.


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