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Scientists map Sierra Negra magma chamber 22 August 2009

Posted by admin in Ecuador, Galapagos, geoscience.
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Sierra Negra volcano in the Galápagos erupting, 22 October 2005 (NASA Earth Observatory image: Terra/MODIS)

Sierra Negra volcano on Isla Isabela in the Galápagos is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galápagos archipelago: its most recent eruption was in October 2005 (shown in the NASA Earth Observatory image above).

An interdisciplinary team of scientists (University of Miami, University of Rochester, University of Idaho and the Instituto Geofísico of Ecuador) has just returned from Isla Isabela, where they have been busy deploying a seismic network the data from which will help to determine precisely where Sierra Negra’s magma chamber is located and how far it extends, as Dr Falk Amelung of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science explains:

‘With the satellite data we regularly collect here at the University of Miami, using a technique called satellite radar interferometry, we are able to see the underground location of the magma chamber. The new seismic data will allow us to corroborate our information and obtain proof that the magma chamber is actually 2 km down and to what depth it extends. Petrologists suggest that the chamber may extend to a depth of 10 km, whereas geophysicists believe it might go only to a depth of 3 km or so’.

Much fun was evidently had by the team, coming and going in helicopters and on horses, and trekking across jagged, boot-shredding lava fields. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation, and in an admirable example of science-schools partnership an additional NSF grant funded the presence of Lisa Hjelm, science teacher from The Girls’ Middle School, Mountain View, California, who will be using data from the study to create a visualization of the volcano’s interior as an educational project.

The Volcanism Blog