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NASA spiders monitor Mount St Helens 17 August 2009

Posted by admin in current research, Mount St Helens, natural hazards, United States, volcano monitoring.
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A burst of publicity has accompanied the deployment by NASA of high-tech monitoring units called ‘spiders’ (consisting of a body containing instruments, supported by eight – no, three – spindly legs) at Mount St Helens. The story isn’t new in itself: ‘spiders’ have been in use for some time at the volcano, with scientists varying the instrument payload inside each spider as conditions and budgets required.

‘Each pod’, reports ScienceDaily, ‘contains a seismometer to detect earthquakes; a GPS receiver to pinpoint the exact location and measure subtle ground deformation; an infrared sounder to sense volcanic explosions; and a lightning detector to search for ash cloud formation’. The idea is that the spiders represent a cost-effective, quick-deploying and flexible means of monitoring volcanoes that are showing signs of activity, and could be particularly valuable in providing networks for unmonitored volcanoes in remote and/or less technologically developed parts of the world. More from the ScienceDaily report:

‘We hope this network will provide a blueprint for future networks to be installed on many of the world’s unmonitored active volcanoes, so educated and reliable estimates can be made when a town or a village needs to be evacuated to reduce the risk to life and property’, said Project Manager Sharon Kedar (shah-RONE keh-DARR) of JPL.

The spiders are developed and deployed in a joint project involving Washington State University, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena (pas-ah-DEE-nah).

NASA goes inside a volcano, monitors activity – ScienceDaily, 12 August 2009
NASA drops ‘spiders’ into volcano – National Geographic News, 13 August 2009
NASA drops probes into volatile volcano – LiveScience, 14 August 2009

Global Volcanism Program: Mount St Helens – summary information for Mount St Helens (1201-05-)
Volcano Sensorweb – JPL Volcano Sensorweb website

The Volcanism Blog