Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Seismologists ask: How close are we to an eruption?
by Staff Writers
San Francisco CA (SPX) Apr 27, 2016

In 2012, repairs were made to several seismic monitoring stations around Mount St. Helens, including the September Lobe station shown here. Image courtesy Marc Biundo and USGS. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Scientists analyzing the data from seismic networks are becoming better at detecting volcanic activity and at depicting the source and structure of the "plumbing" beneath the world's volcanoes. But a critical question remains: Can these data help predict when a volcano is close to erupting?

In a session at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Seismological Society of America (SSA) held April 20-22 in Reno, Nevada, researchers will describe how they are using new and repurposed tools to zero in on the sequence of events that precedes a volcanic eruption. The seismologists are looking for patterns of seismic activity to compare with past eruptions to determine when one particular volcano might erupt, as well as larger patterns that could be used to predict when volcanoes of a certain type might erupt.

"In the last ten years, there have been a lot more seismometers placed on volcanoes," said Weston Thelen, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey. "We're now looking for eruption signals from earthquakes that others might cast off as too small to bother with, but we want to use all the different signals that are out there."

At the SSA meeting, USGS scientist Randall White will present information on a "progression of seismicity" before an eruption that he and others have gleaned from studying more than 35 eruptions at 24 dormant volcanoes over the past 20 years. More than 90% of the eruptions at these dormant volcanoes are preceded by significant (magnitude 3 or larger) volcano-tectonic earthquakes on faults near but not under the volcanoes, they note. Other waves of low-frequency seismicity follow, as magma intrudes into rock and interacts with different parts of the earth's crust.

At Washington State's Mount St. Helens volcano and at Little Sitkin Volcano in Alaska's Western Aleutians, researchers are taking a closer look at the swarms of repeating small earthquakes that appear to precede many eruptions. These swarms can come and go underneath a volcano without being connected to an eruption, however, so seismologists would like to learn more about what each kind of swarm might indicate about the direction and speed of moving magma.

At Mount St. Helens, University of Washington researchers are developing an open-source tool called REDPy (Repeating Earthquake Detector in Python) to look at swarms at the volcano in near real-time, to calculate how the number and size of the earthquake clusters might relate to eruption timing. At Little Sitkin Volcano, Alaska Volcano Observatory seismology Matthew Haney and colleagues are analyzing the seismicity surrounding a 2012 swarm there to learn more about how magma is moving between reservoirs under the volcano.

A 2014 swarm beneath Mammoth Mountain in California allowed USGS scientist David Shelly and his colleagues to trace the complex relationship between fluid movement and fault activation at the heavily monitored lava dome. Their analysis yielded a set of more than 6000 precisely located earthquakes that helped to trace a wave of earthquake propagation along multiple faults during the swarm sequence.

Another presentation in the SSA session will discuss how seismic data were used in 2015 to detect a massive magma chamber under the Yellowstone supervolcano, connecting an earlier-known upper crust magma reservoir with the mantle plume that fuels the supervolcano.

Seismic studies such as the Yellowstone report that help to define the structure of magma chambers and movement are key to connecting seismic activity with the timing of a volcanic eruption, said Thelen. "For many volcanoes, we're still trying to figure out where the magma lies, and where the hydrothermal systems are," he said. "When we understand that better, we can interpret the seismicity better when it comes up."

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Seismological Society of America
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
When the Earth Quakes
A world of storm and tempest

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Two volcanoes trigger crises of the late antiquity
Kiel, Germany (SPX) Apr 25, 2016
Contemporary chroniclers wrote about a "mystery cloud" which dimmed the light of the sun above the Mediterranean in the years 536 and 537 CE. Tree rings testify poor growing conditions over the whole Northern Hemisphere - the years from 536 CE onward seem to have been overshadowed by an unusual natural phenomenon. Social crises including the first European plague pandemic beginning in 541, ... read more

Nepal marks quake anniversary with prayers and tears

NATO to close Libya migrant route to Europe

Nepal marks one year since quake as frustration mounts

Fears mount in quake-hit Nepal as tourists stay away

Nano-magnets produce 3-dimensional images

NASA studies 3D printing for building densely populated electronics

Liquid spiral vortex discovered

Simple 3-D fabrication technique for bio-inspired hierarchical structures

Giant plankton gains long-due attention

Bottled water infects over 4,000 people in Spain with norovirus

Taiwan's Formosa under fire over Vietnam mass fish deaths

Promiscuity may help some corals survive bleaching events

IceBridge Begins Eighth Year of Arctic Flights

New maps chart Greenland glaciers' melting risk

Nansen gives birth to two icebergs

China spurs ships to use Arctic shipping route: report

Top African producer bans GM cotton

USU chemists shed new light on global energy, food supply challenge

Bringing nitrogen out to pasture

Phosphorus tax could be huge if tropical farming intensifies

Preparations for a US west coast tsunami look to the past and future

Ecuador quake death toll jumps to 646, one week on

Two volcanoes trigger crises of the late antiquity

New aftershocks jolt Ecuador still reeling from quake

Climate change brings conflict, Senegal leader warns

South Sudan's peace deal hangs by a thread

Amnesty accuses Nigeria's military over deadly Shiite clashes

Burundi gunmen murder military officer: witness, army

Shining light on brain tumors

Researchers can identify you by your brain waves with 100 percent accuracy

Toward quieting the brain

Bigger brains led to bigger bodies in our ancestors

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement