USGS's daily Hawaii lava reports outdo the reports from the press
There isn't usually much good to say about government bureaucrats. Here's an exception: the U.S. Geological Survey. A group of them are doing a yeoman's job providing really interesting, genuinely informative, and easy to understand daily reports about the volcanic eruptions going on in Hawaii. They're so good that they put most the mainstream media to shame.
Since my sister lives in Leilani Estates – thus far, she has not lost her house – it's obviously a good one to follow. But anyone can see the reports on YouTube and find them interesting.
Look at the first-rate content of this daily report, a USGS briefing so well done that the local news service, Big Island Video News, just runs the whole thing as is, apparently without editing, and posts it on YouTube:
Why is this good?
Well, for starters, the guy giving the briefing is obviously a geologist, not a hair-sprayed professional television presenter with a plastic demeanor. Guy seems normal, he isn't wearing anything fancy, and his tone is quite conversational. Good start.
He then gives an update on the most critically watched element of the lava flows – the fact that the lava is very close to a critical geothermal power station, whose loss could affect the entire island. He points out that the lava is going away from the station.
After that, he pulls out daily lava maps and apologizes for their low quality, although they actually seem good enough to get his point across. The maps show the spread of lava, and each one is released daily by the USGS, so it's easy to check on them each day. The lava maps are useful particularly to those with homes in the area because they show the progress of the molten earth spreading all over and give warnings about whose house may be next to go. The geologist has them marked for new and old lava and explains what each one means, adding that geologists can get confused by the numbers just as easily as laymen, which is also helpful in discerning how much weight to give to what might come next.
Then the good stuff comes: amazing footage of volcanic activity and lava spattering and flowing. It's a chance to marvel at the forces of nature – huge lava fountains, giant bubbling lava pits, massive lava rivers, footage no one has seen before, and which is dramatically different from the TV news loops. It is amazing to behold.
After that, perhaps the most interesting part: a map of the geological formation, showing the volcano, along with the fingers of lava extending from it like tree roots, which goes a long way toward explaining why the lava is hitting homes instead of dripping down from the volcanic caldera. The geologist has good explanations about how pressure and the recent earthquakes have affected the flow of the magma.
If you want to see something well done, this is a place to go, and the USGS puts these things out daily on its own site, in addition to giving these things to media sites that post on YouTube.
It's nice to see what we did not already know, and not be treated as if we are stupid, which is what these reports accomplish. Now if only the dumber elements of th media could get a clue about what constitutes a good report.