Currently, there is no fail-proof way to forecast a volcanic eruption—but that does not mean that scientists are not trying. One method that geologists use to deduce whether or not a volcano will erupt is to monitor magma and gas movements, which involves fracturing rock, beneath the volcano. The assumption is that the more magma movement there is, the more likely it is that the volcano may erupt, and when magma moves beneath a volcano it changes the stresses on the underground rock formations, causing an increased rate of seismicity. In this activity students work in small groups to evaluate the merit of a predictive hypothesis for volcanoes by analyzing and comparing earthquake event data for the world, region during a time of no earthquake swarms and during an earthquake swarm.
The development of this resources was funded by the National Science Foundation via Award # 0942518
Students will be able to…
Volcano deformation can provide clues about what is happening deep below the surface. Two techniques used to monitor deformation include Tiltmeters and GPS.
Earthquake activity beneath a volcano almost always increases before an eruption because magma and volcanic gas must first force their way up through shallow underground fractures and passageways. The continuous release of seismic energy is induced by the movement of magma.
Magmatic gas is the driving force of volcanic eruptions. A primary objective in gas monitoring is to determine changes in the release of certain gases from a volcano, chiefly carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Such changes can be used with other monitoring information to provide eruption warnings and to improve our understanding of how volcanoes work.