Twenty-five years ago, a small team of Philippine and US scientists worked feverishly to forecast what newly-awakened Mount Pinatubo might do, and to alert everyone from indigenous peoples to high tech military about what to expect and the possible need to evacuate.   Skepticism was high and had to be overcome with a combination of video, hard facts and numbers, and personal trust.   Uncertainties were also high, which required erring on the side of safety and being willing to be wrong. Chris Newhall will highlight the pre-eruption preparation and introduce the eruption, and Renato Solidum will trace events from the eruption through long-lasting lahars.

Chris Newhall, a career volcanologist with USGS and now retiring gradually, studies historical and modern volcanic unrest, and eruptive behavior as recorded in ash layers, minerals, and dusty books and their digital copies. He began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and as a Ph.D. student in the Guatemalan highlands, then worked in northern Arizona and at Mount St. Helens, and has been privileged to work on many other volcanoes around the world. He led the USGS team involvement at Mount Pinatubo.

His undergraduate and graduate training was at UC Davis, University of Canterbury, and Dartmouth. To repay the favor, he has taught at University of Washington, Nanyang Technological University (Earth Observatory of Singapore), and currently teaches at the University of the Philippines. He is a past chairman of the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO), and participates in a variety of international volcanology activities, including ongoing development of WOVOdat, a database of global volcanic unrest.

Newhall resides near Mayon Volcano, Philippines, where he and his wife run a small NGO/B&B devoted to environmental education, village livelihood, and college scholarships for village kids (

Renato Solidum is the head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) -- the agency tasked to mitigate the effects of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Solidum started his career in PHIVOLCS in 1984 as a science research specialist I (SRS I). He served as officer-in-charge of the Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division from March 1992 to February 1994. In 1999, he was appointed as Chief SRS of the Geology & Geophysics Research and Development Division. A recognized expert in geochemistry, marine geology, volcano and earthquake geology, geologic hazards assessment and awareness, and Earth science education, he holds a master’s degree in geological science from the University of Illinois and completed his Ph.D. in Earth science at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California in San Diego. 

The Carnegie Institution will open its doors at 6:00 p.m. The lecture will start at 6:45 p.m. An overflow room, with screens, will be available when the auditorium reaches maximum capacity. Seating in the auditorium is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The lecture is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.


Program Partners: Carnegie Institution for Science, The Embassy of the Philippines in Washington D.C., The United States Geological Survey, and The Smithsonian Institution