Nav: Home

Predicting eruptions using satellites and math

June 28, 2017

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.

As magma shifts and flows beneath the earth's surface, the ground above flexes and quivers. Modern satellite technologies, similar to GPS, can now track these movements, and geoscientists are beginning to decipher what this reveals about what's happening underground--as well as what is likely to happen in the future.

"We're the first to have developed a strategy using data assimilation to successfully forecast the evolution of magma overpressures beneath a volcano using combined ground deformation datasets measured by Global Navigation Satellite System (more commonly known as GPS) and satellite radar data," explains Mary Grace Bato, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Institut des Sciences de la Terre (ISTerre) in France.

Bato and her collaborators are among the first to test whether data assimilation, a method used to incorporate new measurements with a dynamical model, can also be applied in volcano studies to make sense of such satellite data. Meteorologists have long used a similar technique to integrate atmospheric and oceanic measurements with dynamical models, allowing them to forecast the weather. Climate researchers have also used the same method to estimate the long-term evolution of the climate due to carbon emissions. But volcanologists are just beginning to explore whether the technique can also be used to forecast volcanic eruptions.

"The amount of satellite and ground-based geodetic data (i.e. GPS data) has tremendously increased recently," says Bato. "The challenge is how to use these data efficiently and how to integrate them with models in order to have a deeper understanding of what occurs beneath the volcano and what drives the eruption so that we can determine near-real-time and accurate predictions of volcanic unrest."

In their latest research, Bato and her colleagues have begun answering these questions by simulating one type of volcano--those which erupt with limited "explosivity" due to the build-up of underlying magma pressure. Through their exploratory simulations, Bato was able to correctly predict the excess pressure that drives a theoretical volcanic eruption, as well as the shape of the deepest underground magma reservoir and the flow rate of magma into the reservoir. Such reservoirs are typically miles below the surface and, as such, they're nearly impossible to study with existing methods.

Geoscientists still need to improve current volcanic models before they can be widely applied to real-life volcanoes, but Bato and her colleagues are already beginning to test their methods on the Grímsvötn Volcano in Iceland and the Okmok Volcano in Alaska. They believe that their strategy will be a key step towards more accurate predictions of volcanic behavior.

"We foresee a future where daily or even hourly volcanic forecasts will be possible--just like any other weather bulletin," says Bato.

This research is part of a broader collection of articles focused on volcanic hazard assessment.
-end-


Frontiers

Related Volcano Articles:

Formation of a huge underwater volcano offshore the Comoros
A submarine volcano was formed off the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean in 2018.
Volcano F is the origin of the floating stones
Since August a large accumulation of pumice has been drifting in the Southwest Pacific towards Australia.
Researchers discover a new, young volcano in the Pacific
Researchers from Tohoku University have discovered a new petit-spot volcano at the oldest section of the Pacific Plate.
What happens under the Yellowstone Volcano
A recent study by Bernhard Steinberger of the German GeoForschungsZentrum and colleagues in the USA helps to better understand the processes in the Earth's interior beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano.
Geoengineering versus a volcano
Major volcanic eruptions spew ash particles into the atmosphere, which reflect some of the Sun's radiation back into space and cool the planet.
How to recognize where a volcano will erupt
Eleonora Rivalta and her team from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, together with colleagues from the University Roma Tre and the Vesuvius Observatory of the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia in Naples have devised a new method to forecast volcanic vent locations.
Santorini volcano, a new terrestrial analogue of Mars
One of the great attractions of the island of Santorini, in Greece, lies in its spectacular volcanic landscape, which also contains places similar to those of Mars.
Volcano cliffs can affect monitoring data, study finds
New research led by the University of East Anglia reveals that sharp variations of the surface of volcanoes can affect data collected by monitoring equipment.
Ceres takes life an ice volcano at a time
In new study by University of Arizona planetary scientists, observations prove that ice volcanoes on the dwarf planet Ceres generate enough material to fill one movie theater each year.
Yellowstone super-volcano has a different history than previously thought
The long-dormant Yellowstone super-volcano in the American West has a different history than previously thought, according to a new study by a Virginia Tech geoscientist.
More Volcano News and Volcano Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.