Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Smithsonian GVP Reports Not Updated In A Month

The recent US government shutdown has ended, but some effects are still trickling through the various agencies that were affected by it. The Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program (for which I partially rely on for objective volcano reporting) has not updated its weekly volcanic activity activity reports since Sept. 24th, nearly exactly one month ago.

The new Smithsonian GVP website has not been without its share of issues. From database errors, to infrequent reporting of late, it is anyone's guess as to what's going on over there. The USGS volcanic monitoring stations seem to be OK, including AVO, CVO, CALVO, and HVO, also the earthquake monitoring was seemingly unaffected. The federal shutdown lasted for two weeks.

This could be due to many things, all of which would be speculation on my part, and I do try and avoid that on this blog. My guess would be however that there are protocols that had to be followed, and certain reporting could not be done while the government was on hiatus, as they tend to collect data throughout the week.

There are of course other volcanic monitoring sites to visit on the web, like Volcanodiscovery.com, or Earthquake-report.com, both of which are quite comprehensive (you can see the global volcanic activity widget to the right of this blog in the sidebar, a really neat little tool from Volcanodiscovery.com). So if you, like me reletnelssly are searching for more news on volcanoes, those are some pretty great non-governmental and privately run sites. Both have great reporting and do an excellent job of gathering information.

In the meantime, I'll wait patiently for the Smithsonian GVP to get back into the swing of things, as there is likely quite a bit of post-shutdown chaos going on in Washington still. It is my hope that this never occurs again, as vital services can be, and were, affected in a very negative way by this. In any case, I'll do my best to go without their reports for a while. Stay tuned. 

2 comments:

  1. Well, if "it is anyone's guess as to what's going on over there" maybe I can provide some insight, since I have been with GVP for 21 years.

    First, though the government was shut down for 2+ weeks, it was a Monday-Thursday, so 3 Wednesday posting days were missed for the Weekly Report; a new report was posted last night. Since the work of GVP does not directly and immediately concern the preservation of life or property, we were not excepted from the furlough. In fact, if we had done any work from home, including check work email, we could have gotten in significant legal trouble.

    Second, in the past few years we have lost 40% of our permanent non-research staff (2 of 5) who do the writing, database work, and website management. People simply don't get replaced in the current funding environment, so services and products have had to be cut. There is one USGS person to do the Weekly, one SI person to do the Bulletin, and one SI person to do all database and website updates. The loss of staff happened while we were transitioning to a new database for the first time since 1994 (requiring a whole schema redesign and admin tool creation) and building a new website. Some of the lost staff time was covered with contracts for the IT work, which is never problem free, but at least helped get us functional again.

    Eruption dates for volcanoes active in the past couple of years have mostly been caught up now and were pushed to the website just before the shutdown. Processing of journal papers has begun again. Issues with the website are being worked on to restore all of the functionality from the old site, and make sure the new search and download features work properly.

    Thanks for the patience.

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  2. Wow Ed! Thanks so much for the explanation! I'm quite tickled that anyone from the USGS reads my blog!

    I'd like to say that I have a huge admiration for the USGS and their volcano monitoring counterparts, and I thank you for you and your colleagues hard work.

    I'm very glad to hear that things are slowly getting back to normal!

    By the way, I love the new website! Very slick!

    -Matt

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