Prediction of volcanic activity
Prediction of volcanic eruption, or volcanic eruption forecasting, is an interdisciplinary monitoring and research effort to predict the time and severity of a volcano's eruption. Of particular importance is the prediction of hazardous eruptions that could lead to catastrophic loss of life, property, and disruption of human activities.
Mount St. Helens erupted explosively on May 18, 1980 at 8:32 a.m. PDT
Seismic waves (seismicity)
General principles of volcano seismology
Patterns of seismicity are complex and often difficult to interpret; however, increasing seismic activity is a good indicator of increasing eruption risk, especially if long-period events become dominant and episodes of harmonic tremor appear.
Using a similar method, researchers can detect volcanic eruptions by monitoring infra-sound—sub-audible sound below 20 Hz. The IMS Global Infrasound Network, originally set up to verify compliance with nuclear test ban treaties, has 60 stations around the world that work to detect and locate erupting volcanoes.[1]
Seismic case studies
A relation between long-period events and imminent volcanic eruptions was first observed in the seismic records of the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia. The occurrence of long-period events were then used to predict the 1989 eruption of Mount Redoubt in Alaska and the 1993 eruption of Galeras in Colombia. In December 2000, scientists at the National Center for Prevention of Disasters in Mexico City predicted an eruption within two days at Popocatépetl, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Their prediction used research that had been done by Bernard Chouet, a Swiss volcanologist who was working at the United States Geological Survey and who first observed a relation between long-period events and an imminent eruption.[2][3][4] The government evacuated tens of thousands of people; 48 hours later, the volcano erupted as predicted. It was Popocatépetl's largest eruption for a thousand years, yet no one was hurt.
Iceberg tremors
Similarities between iceberg tremors, which occur when they run aground, and volcanic tremors may help experts develop a better method for predicting volcanic eruptions. Although icebergs have much simpler structures than volcanoes, they are physically easier to work with. The similarities between volcanic and iceberg tremors include long durations and amplitudes, as well as common shifts in frequencies.[5]
Gas emissions
Gas and ash plume erupted from Mount Pinatubo, Philippines.
As magma nears the surface and its pressure decreases, gases escape. This process is much like what happens when you open a bottle of fizzy drink and carbon dioxide escapes. Sulfur dioxide is one of the main components of volcanic gases, and increasing amounts of it herald the arrival of increasing amounts of magma near the surface. For example, on May 13, 1991, an increasing amount of sulfur dioxide was released from Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. On May 28, just two weeks later, sulfur dioxide emissions had increased to 5,000 tonnes, ten times the earlier amount. Mount Pinatubo later erupted on June 12, 1991. On several occasions, such as before the Mount Pinatubo eruption and the 1993 Galeras, Colombia eruption, sulfur dioxide emissions have dropped to low levels prior to eruptions. Most scientists believe that this drop in gas levels is caused by the sealing of gas passages by hardened magma. Such an event leads to increased pressure in the volcano's plumbing system and an increased chance of an explosive eruption. A multi-component gas analyzer system (Multi-GAS) is an instrument package used to take real-time high-resolution measurements of volcanic gas plumes.[6] Multi-GAS measurements of CO2/SO2 ratios can allow detection of the pre-eruptive degassing of rising magmas, improving prediction of volcanic activity.[6]
Ground deformation
Swelling of a volcano signals that magma has accumulated near the surface. Scientists monitoring an active volcano will often measure the tilt of the slope and track changes in the rate of swelling. An increased rate of swelling, especially if accompanied by an increase in sulfur dioxide emissions and harmonic tremors is a high probability sign of an impending event. The deformation of Mount St. Helens prior to the May 18, 1980 eruption was a classic example of deformation, as the north side of the volcano was bulging upwards as magma was building up underneath. Most cases of ground deformation are usually detectable only by sophisticated equipment used by scientists, but they can still predict future eruptions this way. The Hawaiian volcanoes show significant ground deformation; there is inflation of the ground prior to an eruption and then an obvious deflation post-eruption. This is due to the shallow magma chamber of the Hawaiian volcanoes; movement of the magma is easily noticed on the ground above.[7]
Thermal monitoring
Both magma movement, changes in gas release and hydrothermal activity can lead to thermal emissivity changes at the volcano's surface. These can be measured using several techniques:
There are 4 main methods that can be used to predict a volcanic eruption through the use of hydrology:
Remote sensing
Remote sensing is the detection by a satellite's sensors of electromagnetic energy that is absorbed, reflected, radiated or scattered from the surface of a volcano or from its erupted material in an eruption cloud.
Mass movements and mass failures
Monitoring mass movements and failures uses techniques lending from seismology (geophones), deformation, and meteorology. Landslides, rock falls, pyroclastic flows, and mud flows (lahars) are example of mass failures of volcanic material before, during, and after eruptions.
The most famous volcanic landslide was probably the failure of a bulge that built up from intruding magma before the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980, this landslide "uncorked" the shallow magmatic intrusion causing catastrophic failure and an unexpected lateral eruption blast. Rock falls often occur during periods of increased deformation and can be a sign of increased activity in absence of instrumental monitoring. Mud flows (lahars) are remobilized hydrated ash deposits from pyroclastic flows and ash fall deposits, moving downslope even at very shallow angles at high speed. Because of their high density they are capable of moving large objects such as loaded logging trucks, houses, bridges, and boulders. Their deposits usually form a second ring of debris fans around volcanic edifices, the inner fan being primary ash deposits. Downstream of the deposition of their finest load, lahars can still pose a sheet flood hazard from the residual water. Lahar deposits can take many months to dry out, until they can be walked on. The hazards derived from lahar activity can exist several years after a large explosive eruption.
A team of US scientists developed a method of predicting lahars. Their method was developed by analyzing rocks on Mt. Rainier in Washington. The warning system depends on noting the differences between fresh rocks and older ones. Fresh rocks are poor conductors of electricity and become hydrothermically altered by water and heat. Therefore, if they know the age of the rocks, and therefore the strength of them, they can predict the pathways of a lahar.[11] A system of Acoustic Flow Monitors (AFM) has also been emplaced on Mount Rainier to analyze ground tremors that could result in a lahar, providing an earlier warning.[12]
Local case studies
The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on January 17, 2002 was predicted a week earlier by a local expert who had been studying the volcanoes for years. He informed the local authorities and a UN survey team was dispatched to the area; however, it was declared safe. Unfortunately, when the volcano erupted, 40% of the city of Goma was destroyed along with many people's livelihoods. The expert claimed that he had noticed small changes in the local relief and had monitored the eruption of a much smaller volcano two years earlier. Since he knew that these two volcanoes were connected by a small fissure, he knew that Mount Nyiragongo would erupt soon.[13]
Mount Etna
British geologists have developed a method of predicting future eruptions of Mount Etna. They have discovered that there is a time lag of 25 years between events. Monitoring of deep crust events can help predict accurately what will happen in the years to come. So far they have predicted that between 2007 and 2015, volcanic activity will be half of what it was in 1972.[14][citation needed]
Sakurajima, Japan
Sakurajima is possibly one of the most monitored areas on earth. The Sakurajima Volcano lies near Kagoshima City, which has a population of over 500,000 people. Both the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) and Kyoto University's Sakurajima Volcanological Observatory (SVO) monitors the volcano's activity. Since 1995, Sakurajima has only erupted from its summit with no release of lava.
Monitoring techniques at Sakurajima:
The Geophysics Institute at the National Polytechnic School in Quito houses an international team of seismologists and volcanologists[15] whose responsibility is to monitor Ecuadors numerous active volcanoes in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador and in the Galápagos Islands. Ecuador is located in the Ring of Fire where about 90%[16] of the world's earthquakes and 81%[17] of the world's largest earthquakes occur. The geologists study the eruptive activity for the volcanoes in the country, especially Tungurahua whose volcanic activity restarted on 19 August 1999,[18] and several major eruptions since that period, the last starting on 1 February 2014.[19]
Going beyond predicting volcanic activity, there are highly speculative proposals to prevent explosive volcanic activity by cooling the magma chambers using geothermal power generation techniques.[20]
See also
Geography portal
  1. ^ Infrasound technology
  2. ^ Bernard Chouet (28 March 1996) "Long-period volcano seismicity: its sources and use in eruption forecasting," Nature, vol. 380, no. 6572, pages 309–316.
  3. ^ Interview with Bernard Chouet regarding his research into long-period events and volcanic eruptions: "Essential Science Indicators". Archived from the original on 2009-02-01. Retrieved 2009-02-18. .
  4. ^ U.S. TV program on use of long-period events to predict volcanic eruptions: "Nova: Volcano's Deadly Warning": https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/volcano/ . See also "Volcano Hell" episode of BBC TV series "Horizon" on same subject: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2001/volcanohell.shtml .
  5. ^ Mason, Christopher (1 March 2006). "Singing icebergs". Canadian Geographic. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b Aiuppa, Alessandro; Moretti, Roberto; Federico, Cinzia; Giudice, Gaetano; Gurrieri, Sergio; Liuzzo, Marco; Papale, Paolo; Shinohara, Hiroshi; Valenza, Mariano (2007). "Forecasting Etna eruptions by real-time observation of volcanic gas composition". Geology. 35 (12): 1115. Bibcode​:​2007Geo....35.1115A​. doi:10.1130/G24149A.1.
  7. ^ Modeling Crustal Deformation Near Active Faults and Volcanic Centers: A Catalog of Deformation Models United States Geological Survey
  8. ^ Schwandner, Florian M.; Gunson, Michael R.; Miller, Charles E.; Carn, Simon A.; Eldering, Annmarie; Krings, Thomas; Verhulst, Kristal R.; Schimel, David S.; Nguyen, Hai M.; Crisp, David; o'Dell, Christopher W.; Osterman, Gregory B.; Iraci, Laura T.; Podolske, James R. (2017). "Spaceborne detection of localized carbon dioxide sources". Science. 358 (6360): eaam5782. doi​:​10.1126/science.aam5782​. PMID 29026015.
  9. ^ Houlie, N.; Komorowski, J.; Demichele, M.; Kasereka, M.; Ciraba, H. (2006). "Early detection of eruptive dykes revealed by normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) on Mt. Etna and Mt. Nyiragongo". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 246 (3–4): 231–240. Bibcode​:​2006E&PSL.246..231H​. doi​:​10.1016/j.epsl.2006.03.039​.
  10. ^ Matoza, Robin S.; Green, David N.; Le Pichon, Alexis; Shearer, Peter M.; Fee, David; Mialle, Pierrick; Ceranna, Lars (2017). "Automated detection and cataloging of global explosive volcanism using the International Monitoring System infrasound network". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 122 (4): 2946–2971. Bibcode​:​2017JGRB..122.2946M​. doi​:​10.1002/2016JB013356​. ISSN 2169-9356.
  11. ^ Kirby, Alex (January 31, 2001). "Early warning for volcanic mudslides". BBC. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
  12. ^ Staff. "WSSPC Awards in Excellence 2003 Award Recipients". Western States Seismic Policy Council. Archived from the original on July 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  13. ^​http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1777671.stm
  14. ^ "Clues to Etna's future eruptions". BBC. 2003-05-01. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  15. ^ Institute for Geophysics at National Polytechnic School
  16. ^ "USGS.gov – Ring of Fire". Earthquake.usgs.gov. 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  17. ^ Usgs Faqs (2013-05-13). "USGS.gov – Where do earthquakes occur?". Earthquake.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  18. ^ "Tungurahua volcano erupts in Ecuador". NBC News. 19 Aug 2012.
  19. ^ "Ecuador's Tungurahua Volcano shoots ash and lava". Associated Press. 2014-02-01.
  20. ^ Cox, David (17 August 2017). "NASA's ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano". BBC Future. BBC. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
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Last edited on 14 July 2021, at 07:14
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