An international study led by Monash researchers has discovered how volcanoes experience stress. The study, published today in Scientific reports, has implications for how the world can be better protected from future volcanic collapse.
Volcanic collapse is the worst case during volcanic crises. It can trigger dangerous tsunamis or devastating pyroclastic currents (for example, Mount Saint Helens).
“But these events are very difficult to predict because we often do not know what is happening within active volcanoes and what forces can make them unstable,” said author Dr. Sam Thiele, a recent Ph.D. graduate of Monash University School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment.
“Research in volcanic growth helps us understand these internal processes and the associated forces that can trigger a deadly collapse or eruption,” he said.
The research team used drones to create a map in cm resolution of the inner structure of a now dormant volcano at La Palma in the Canary Islands and measured the width of the 100s out of thousands of cracks through which magma flowed during previous eruptions .
This allowed them to estimate the forces acting in the volcano and show that these build up slowly over time, causing the volcano to become ‘stressed’ and potentially unstable.
By measuring the width of cracks in the volcano through which magma was transported, they were able to estimate the forces involved, which helps predict future volcanic eruptions.
The geological features that the research team mapped are formed when the molten intrusion, called the dike, solidifies to form a frame within what is otherwise a relatively weak structure that mostly includes layers of lava and ash.
“This is one of the first studies looking at the long-term effects of magma motion within a volcano,” said study author Sandy Cruden of Monash University School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment.
“We found that volcanoes are gradually becoming ‘stressed’ by repeated motion of this magma, potentially destabilizing the entire volcano and affecting future collapses and eruptions,” he said.
What lies beneath a volcano?
Samuel T. Thiele et al. Dive openings register voltage accumulation during sustained volcanism, Scientific reports (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-020-74361-w
Provided by Monash University
Citation: Stressed volcanoes that are more likely to collapse and erupt (2020, October 16) Retrieved October 17, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-stressed-out-volcanoes-collapse-erupt .html
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