Nav: Home

Scientists use 4D scanning to predict behavior of volcanoes

June 07, 2018

Scientists are using the latest in 4D technology to predict the behaviour of lava flows and its implications for volcanic eruptions.

The results explain why some lava flows can cover kilometres in just a few hours, whilst others travel more slowly during an eruption, highlighting the hazard posed by fast-moving flows which often pose the most danger to civilian populations close to volcanoes.

The research, which is being led by The University of Manchester, is studying the processes which happen during crystallisation in basaltic magmas using 4D synchrotron X-ray microtomography. It is the first time this kind of 4D scanning technology has been used for investigating crystallisation during volcanic eruptions and for simulating the behaviour of a natural lava flow. The study was recently published in Nature Scientific Reports.

The team, led by Prof Mike Burton, Chair of Volcanology at the University, monitored crystallisation in magmas, a fundamental process that drives eruptions and controls different kinds of volcanic activity. Using this new and novel approach and technology they can, for the first time, watch the crystals grow in 3D in real-time, simulating the behaviour of lava flows once a volcano has erupted. The process is similar to scenes recently witnessed at Kilauea in Hawaii.

Prof Burton explains: "During volcanic eruptions small crystals grow within magma. These crystals can greatly change the way magma flows. Simply put, the more crystals there are the slower the eruption will be which also reduces the speed and distance travelled by lava flows."

"The fewer crystals present in the lava means the eruption will speed up, potentially becoming more powerful and devastating. Our research and this new approach open an entirely new frontier in the study of volcanic processes." To study the rate of crystal growth the team set up a sample from a real eruption in a high temperature cell, before performing X-ray CAT scans whilst controlling the temperature of the magma. This allowed the team to visualise the formation and growth of crystals, and measure how quickly they grew.

Using this method and technology the researchers can collect hundreds of 3D images during a single experiment. This data is then used in complex, numerical models to fully characterise the behaviour of volcanic eruptions more accurately.

Dr Margherita Polacci, from Manchester's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and study's lead author, said: "Being able to more accurately predict the behaviour of lava flows could also allow us to help relevant safety agencies devise and develop new safety strategies and actions when dealing with eruptions in populated areas."

This isn't the only use for such technology in Geosciences. Prof Burton added: "There are many more applications of this approach in materials science, mineral extraction and other geological processes. We are very excited about the prospect of extending our studies to high pressures, which we will be doing in further experiments in 2018."
-end-
Notes to Editor

For media enquiries please contact Jordan Kenny on 0161 275 8257 or jordan.kenny@manchester.ac.uk

REFERENCE: The paper: "Crystallisation in basaltic magmas revealed via in situ 4D synchrotron X-ray microtomography" was published in Nature Scientific Reports. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-26644-6

About The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is the UK's largest single-site university with more than 40,000 students - including more than 10,000 from overseas.It is consistently ranked among the world's elite for graduate employability.

The University is also one of the country's major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of 'research power' (REF 2014). World-class research is carried out across a diverse range of fields including cancer, advanced materials, addressing global inequalities, energy and industrial biotechnology.

No fewer than 25 Nobel laureates have either worked or studied here.

It is the only UK university to have social responsibility among its core strategic objectives, with staff and students alike dedicated to making a positive difference in communities around the world.

Manchester is ranked 38th in the world in the Academic

Ranking of World Universities 2017 and 6th in the UK.

Visit http://www.manchester.ac.uk for further information.

Facts and figures: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/facts-figures/

Research Beacons: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/beacons/

News and media contacts: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/

University of Manchester

Related Volcanic Eruptions Articles:

Predicting eruptions using satellites and math
Volcanologists are beginning to use satellite measurements and mathematical methods to forecast eruptions and to better understand how volcanoes work, shows a new article in Frontiers in Earth Science.
'Bulges' in volcanoes could be used to predict eruptions
A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a new way of measuring the pressure inside volcanoes, and found that it can be a reliable indicator of future eruptions.
Volcanic eruptions triggered dawn of the dinosaurs
Huge pulses of volcanic activity are likely to have played a key role in triggering the end Triassic mass extinction, which set the scene for the rise and age of the dinosaurs, new Oxford University research has found.
Tracking the build-up to volcanic eruptions
ASU scientists discover that sub-millimeter zircon crystals record the flash heating of molten rock leading up to an explosive eruption 700 years ago.
Deep magma reservoirs are key to volcanic 'super-eruptions', new research suggests
Large reservoirs of magma stored deep in the Earth's crust are key to producing some of the Earth's most powerful volcanic eruptions, new research has shown.
Ancient meteorite impact sparked long-lived volcanic eruptions on Earth
Large impacts were common on the early Earth and were likely much more important than previously thought in shaping our planet.
Sun's eruptions might all have same trigger
Large and small scale solar eruptions might all be triggered by a single process, according to new research that leads to better understanding of the sun's activity.
Scientists propose mechanism to describe solar eruptions of all sizes
From long jets to massive explosions of solar material and energy, eruptions on the sun come in many shapes and sizes.
Report identifies grand challenges to better prepare for volcanic eruptions
Despite broad understanding of volcanoes, our ability to predict the timing, duration, type, size, and consequences of volcanic eruptions is limited, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Antarctic penguin colony repeatedly decimated by volcanic eruptions
One of the largest colonies of gentoo penguins in Antarctica was decimated by volcanic eruptions several times during the last 7,000 years according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Related Volcanic Eruptions Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#518 With Genetic Knowledge Comes the Need for Counselling
This week we delve into genetic testing - for yourself and your future children. We speak with Jane Tiller, lawyer and genetic counsellor, about genetic tests that are available to the public, and what to do with the results of these tests. And we talk with Noam Shomron, associate professor at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, about technological advancements his lab has made in the genetic testing of fetuses.