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Simulating volcanic seismicity in the lab 10 October 2008

Posted by admin in current research, Etna, geoscience, Italy.
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Scientists from Britain, Canada and Italy have recreated the processes of deformation and fracture which affect the rock that makes up volcanoes inside the laboratory, monitoring and analyzing the stress signals produced when the rock reacts to pressure. The resulting data can be used to understand what is happening in full-size volcanoes, improving the accuracy with which volcanic seismicity can be analyzed and used to forecast eruptions. Reuters reports:

Active volcanoes produce a mix of seismic signals or small earthquakes that can indicate an eruption, but interpreting their significance is notoriously difficult. So the capacity to analyze these signals under laboratory conditions and understand how they are caused by water, steam, gas or magma rushing through cracks in rock is a significant step forward.

The rock used was basalt from Mount Etna. Water was forced through under pressure to simulate the conditions within an erupting volcano. The resulting report, ‘Laboratory simulation of volcanic seismicity’, can be found in the 10 October 2008 edition of Science (link is to abstract only, subscription required for full access).

Volcano in lab may help predict real eruptions – Reuters, 9 October 2008
Sounds of volcanic eruption recreated – MSNBC, 9 October 2008
Simulata in laboratorio l’eruzione di un vulcanoIl Messaggero, 9 October 2008 (Italian)

The Volcanism Blog


1. Boris Behncke - 10 October 2008

It should be mentioned that one of the authors, Sergio Vinciguerra of the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia is one of thousands of Italian researchers risking to remain without a job if the plans of the Italian government to get rid of the so-called “precari” are made reality. “Precario” stands for someone whose working position is in fact in a precarious situation, because contracts are made only for determined periods (most commonly, one year). The minister for Public Administration, Brunetta, has proposed a law that would cancel all contracts for determined periods, and also interrupt the process of “stabilization” for the “precari”, put into action by the previous government led by Prodi.
It should be noted that the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) is responsible for the monitoring of all Italian seismic and volcanic activity, including high-risk volcanoes such as Vesuvius, Vulcano, Campi Flegrei, Stromboli and Etna. Nearly half of the INGV staff consists of “precari” (myself included), and without these people, many of whom have as much expertise and skills as their colleague with stable contracts, geophysical and volcano monitoring would collapse.

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