Scientists are using seismic noise interferometry to predict volcanic eruptions. Can these "volcanic whispers" help prevent future ruin?

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

Volcanoes are unpredictable forces of nature, and there are about 1,500 geologically active ones around the world. Bárðarbunga in Iceland, spewed thousands of cubic feet of molten lava from a crack in the earth's crust back in 2014. But by volcanologists standards, that was considered a peaceful eruption. Bárðarbunga could erupt explosively again one day, shutting down air travel and unleashing a level of environmental destruction that would wipe out roads, homes, and daily life as we know it.

Active volcanoes like this one exist all over the world, but "active" is sort of a misnomer. An active volcano can erupt at any time, but it could also not. Scientists are working hard to figure out when a volcano is going to erupt. The best we can do now is whittle a prediction down to a series of probabilities and best guesses.

To do this, volcanologists have a few things in their tool kit: seismometers that can pinpoint the rise and fall of magma, thermal imaging to detect the heat around a volcano, and chemical sensors that sniff for volcanic gases like sulfur and CO2.

Even with all of these data points, there's still no volcano forecast. As they work toward getting a forecast, scientists are adding another tool to their kit: seismic noise interferometry. It's like listening to the "whispers" of a volcano.

This video, "Scientists are using seismic noise interferometry to predict volcanic eruptions. Can these "volcanic whispers" help prevent future ruin?", first appeared on seeker.com.

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