Home Sciences The “music” of lava will help predict volcanic eruptions

The “music” of lava will help predict volcanic eruptions

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The deep reverberating sounds of lava could one day help us better understand the internal dynamics of volcanoes and predict future eruptions, according to a new study. The “music” of the lava would reveal what happens in the depths of the belly of a volcano.

A new investigation carried out by scientists from the University of Oregon, in the United States, analyzed various parameters related to the eruption of the Kīlauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2018, and concluded that the sounds emanating from the depths of the volcano from 10 years before the eruption indicated changes in its dynamics.

According to a press release, the study of that internal “music” could be used in the future to predict with greater certainty the variations that take place in the depths of the volcanoes, and that mark a possible eruption. The research, developed by specialists Leif Karlstrom and Josh Crozier, was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

Deep changes and volcanic “sounds”

Kīlauea volcano erupted dramatically in 2018, including earthquakes and lava flows that not only disrupted daily life in Hawaii but also changed the topography of the volcano. However, the researchers were able to confirm that the volcano recorded milder more subtle rashes over a decadebefore his big bang.

These changes were imperceptible from the surface, but marked transcendent internal variants. A prominent feature of this slow-moving eruption is a persistent lava lake, which formed within the Halema’uma’u crater at Kīlauea’s summit. The lava lake was fed by an underground magma chamber, connected to the surface by a passageway: in order to sustain itself over time, it required a constant influx of new lava from deep within the volcano.

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Apparently certain “volcanic sounds” are directly related to this internal dynamic. In the same way that the sound that can be generated when hitting a fork against a glass will vary depending on the amount of liquid that accumulates in the glass, the seismic signals observed around the Kīlauea summit encode the resonance of the magma that enters and leaves . In other words, the magma would be like the water in the glass: it would show its concentration and behavior according to the sounds that the interior of the volcano emits.

The characteristics of this “volcanic” resonance They are determined both by the shape and properties of the magma and by the temperature and gas content present inside the volcano. By carefully examining the resonant signals throughout the eruption, the researchers were able to deduce what was happening inside the volcano, without directly probing its dangerous and extreme environment.

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A new method to predict eruptions?

According to the researchers, it is possible to see the accumulation of gas over time and the change in temperature without any direct measurement, only from the analysis of the reverberations. How did scientists access the “sound” information from the volcano? For more information on the deepest volcano dynamicsthe researchers analyzed data collected by the Hawaii Volcano Observatory between 2008 and 2018.

These records come from a series of sensors placed around the volcano, which capture vibrations and other acoustic disturbances. When something physically disturbs the magma chamber or lava lake, it is possible to measure it with seismometers. During a decade of monitoring, these instruments were able to detect tens of thousands of these “sound” events.

By combining this data with a physics-based process model that creates these sound signals, the specialists managed to relate the sounds and vibrations with the internal changes in the volcano. Although they believe it’s too early to use that information to predict the behavior of future eruptions, the data could help scientists make more complete interpretations of seismic signals from volcanoes, which would improve their understanding.

Reference

Evolving magma temperature and volatile contents over the 2008-2018 summit eruption of Kīlauea Volcano. Josh Crozier and Leif Karlstrom. Science Advances (2022). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abm4310

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