Super volcanoes ‘may be predicted’

Posted on February 1, 2012

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The eruption of some of the largest volcanoes on the planet could be predicted several decades before the event, according to researchers.

Analysis of rock crystals from the Greek island of Santorini suggests eruptions are preceded by a fast build-up of magma underground, which might be detected using modern instrumentation.

Such volcanoes can produce enough ash and gas to temporarily change the global climate.

The research is in the journal Nature.

Volcanologists refer to history’s largest volcanoes as “caldera-forming eruptions”, as the magma ejected is so voluminous that it leaves a massive depression on the Earth’s surface and a crater-like structure known as a caldera.

The largest of these volcanoes have been dubbed “super volcanoes” and their eruptions can trigger devastation with global impacts.

Such volcanoes can lie dormant for hundreds of thousands of years before blowing. But while researchers believe seismic data and other readings would give us a few month’s notice of such an eruption, the new study suggests we might anticipate these events much earlier.

“When volcanoes awaken and when the magma starts to ascend to the surface, cracking rock as it does, it sends out signals,” Prof Tim Druitt of France’s Blaise Pascal University and lead researcher told BBC News.

“You get seismic signals, you get deformation of the surface, increasing gas emission at the surface – and this can be detected.

BBC

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