Scientists say they’ve found a new way to predict when a volcano is about to erupt. Simply; after a measurable pressure drop occurs within a volcano’s internal plumbing, an eruption is likely to follow.
This pressure drop can potentially be used by volcanologists to predict a catastrophic eruption. The researchers say the importance is quite significant, particularly if you are part of a community that lives next door to a volcano, or an airline company mapping flight routes.
The study is hoping to engineer early warning systems so that people can be told with a huge degree of confidence when to get out of the way.
Lead author Dr Janine Kavanagh from the University of Liverpool said with more than 600 million people worldwide living near a volcano at risk of eruptive activity, it is more important than ever that triggering mechanisms are made more accurate. This previously unrecognised trigger could also alleviate the “headache” volcanic eruptions cause civil aviation by providing early and accurate warnings to authorities when they should divert aircraft.
“There is also a strong economic incentive to understand the causes of volcanic activity as demonstrated in 2010 by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, causing air-traffic disruption across Europe for more than a month, and an estimated $A2.5 billion loss in revenue to the airline industry ::::
Australian scientists are part of the team that has accidentally made the breakthrough that will hopefully lead to an improved early warning system for volcanic eruptions.
Monash University researchers, along with those from universities in Newcastle, New South Wales, and Liverpool in the UK, were looking at the natural plumbing systems within volcanoes when they discovered a trigger-point for volcanic eruptions.
Professor Sandy Cruden from Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment said they found that after a pressure drop occurred within the volcano’s internal pipes, an eruption can follow.
This pressure drop can potentially be used by volcanologists to predict a catastrophic eruption, Professor Cruden said.
“The importance is quite significant particularly if you are part of a community that lives next door to a volcano,” Professor Cruden said. “The whole idea is to engineer early warning systems so people can be told with a huge degree of confidence when to get out of the way.”
Lead author Dr Janine Kavanagh from the University of Liverpool said with more than 600 million people worldwide living near a volcano at risk of eruptive activity, it is more important than ever that triggering mechanisms are improved.
This previously unrecognised trigger could also alleviate the “headache” volcanic eruptions cause civil aviation by providing early and accurate warnings to authorities when they should divert aircraft.
“There is also a strong economic incentive to understand the causes of volcanic activity as demonstrated in 2010 by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, which caused air-traffic disruption across Europe for more than one month, with an estimated $2.3 billion loss in revenue to the airline industry,” Dr Kavanagh said.
Jelly and Lasers
In the experiments, the scientists used a tank filled with jelly into which coloured water was injected to stimulate the moving magma. A high-speed camera and synchronised laser were used to observe what happened inside the tank as the magma moved upwards.
The scientists then discovered a significant pressure drop occurred when a vertically moving sheet of magma called a dyke turned into a horizontally moving sheet called a sill.
A pressure drop causes the magma to release dissolved gasses as bubbles and those bubbles cause the magma to expand, and if that happens fast enough, an eruption can occur, Professor Cruden said.
“It’s similar to removing a cap from a bottle of shaken fizzy drink — the pressure drop causes bubbles to form and the associated increase in volume results in a fountain of foam erupting from the bottle,” Professor Cruden said.
Dr Kavanagh said. said the scientists were simply trying to understand the basic physics of how magma moves around the earth when they uncovered this pressure drop.
“It’s completely unexpected and a very interesting result,” Dr Kavanagh said. “We hope volcanologists will eventually incorporate this new finding into their toolbox.”
RELATED! New Volcanic Island off Japan an Opportunity to Study The Emergence of Life
A brand new island emerging off the coast of Japan is offering scientists a rare opportunity to study how life begins to colonise barren land — helped by rotting bird poo and hatchling vomit.
Researchers say bird waste will be the secret ingredient to kickstart Mother Nature’s grand experiment on what is a still active volcano that only poked its head above the waves in November 2013.
That speck of land, 1,000 kilometres south of Tokyo, has grown to engulf its once larger neighbour, Nishinoshima, a part of Japan’s Ogasawara island chain known for the wealth and variety of its ecosystem.
The new Nishinoshima — a respectable 2.46 square kilometres, the Japan Coast Guard said in February — is currently almost all bare rock, formed from cooling lava.
But scientists say it will one day be humming with plant — and possibly animal — life, as nature moves in to what is being called a “natural laboratory” on one of the latest bits of real estate in the Pacific Ocean.
“We biologists are very much focusing on the new island because we’ll be able to observe the starting point of evolutionary processes,” said Naoki Kachi, professor and leader of Tokyo Metropolitan University’s Ogasawara Research Committee.
Seabird Vomit Key to New Life
After the volcanic activity calms down, “what will probably happen first will be the arrival of plants brought by ocean currents and attached to birds’ feet,” he said.
Those seabirds, who could use the remote rock as a temporary resting place, could eventually set up home there.
Their excreta — along with their dropped feathers, regurgitated bits of food and rotting corpses — will eventually form a nutrient-rich soil that offers fertile ground for seeds carried by the wind, or brought in the digestive systems of overflying birds.
“I am most interested in the effects of birds on the plants’ ecosystem — how their bodily wastes-turned-organic fertilisers enrich the vegetation and how their activities disturb it,” Mr Kachi said.
Scientists Savour Chance to Study ‘Blank Canvas’
Scientists have no idea when Nishinoshima will stop spewing lava, but its expansion is being offset by erosion around the edges.
The island is expected to follow a route laid out by Surtsey, an island that emerged from the sea in 1963, about 30 kilometres from the coast of Iceland.
The UNESCO World Heritage spot is known globally as an outstanding example of a pristine natural laboratory where researchers have been able to trace the evolution of a habitat.
“Since they began studying the island in 1964, scientists have observed the arrival of seeds carried by ocean currents, the appearance of moulds, bacteria and fungi, followed in 1965 by the first vascular plant,” UNESCO says on its website. “By 2004, [vascular plants] numbered 60, together with 75 bryophytes, 71 lichens and 24 fungi. Eighty-nine species of birds have been recorded on Surtsey, 57 of which breed elsewhere in Iceland.”
Nishinoshima might not be quite as quick as Surtsey to establish itself as a teeming wildlife haven — it is a long way from mainland Japan and not too close to its neighbours in the Ogasawara island chain, which limits the number of species of birds and seeds that will make it that far.
Nonetheless, Mr Kachi said the island was an exciting blank canvas and needed to be treated with respect — which means keeping out foreign invaders that would not naturally drift or fly in.
“I’d like to call on anyone who lands on the island to pay special attention to keeping it the way it is — not to take external species there,” he warned.
He said when he conducted a field study on another island in the chain in 2007, his team prepared a fumigated clean room where they packed all research equipment, after making sure everything they had was either brand new or scrupulously clean.
While Nishinoshima is currently only being monitored from the air, the first field researchers will need to take similar precautions.
RELATED! Southern Ocean Carbon NOT Sinking
Australian and British researchers have found that one of the world’s largest carbon sinks stores carbon differently than first thought. Utilising data collected over ten years from robotic – Argo – probes, the team has shown subduction happens at specific locations as a result of interplay between winds, currents and massive whirlpools.
Dr Matear says the study also shows the Southern Ocean is not as efficient as first thought in capturing anthropogenic carbon dioxide. The Southern Ocean contains about 40 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions absorbed by the world’s oceans.
Researchers from the CSIRO and British Antarctic Survey examined the way the Southern Ocean sucks carbon absorbed from the surface layer into the deeper ocean.
Research co-author Dr Richard Matear from the CSIRO says the study shows the method through which carbon is drawn down from the surface of the Southern Ocean to the ocean’s interior – or deep waters :: Read the full article »»»»
Michio Kaku BigThink! Cataclysmic Solar Flares For 2012!?
What’s the worst possible thing that could happen in 2012? It just depends who’s boat your sitting on. For Doomsayers, 2012 is The Apocalypse, The End of Days – much like Harold Camping’s Rapture, May 21, 2011 and October 21, 2011 – For those of us still sat here asking wtf are you dribbling on about?
That überpopular Princeton wiz Michio Kaku – you’ll know who he is when you see the video – dispells a bundle of crackpot prophetic theories via his Big Think session.
The 2012 doomsday prophecies are many and varied, principally comprising of a range of eschatological beliefs according to which cataclysmic events will occur on December 21, 2012. This date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and the crackpots swear by it!
Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae have been proposed as pertaining to this date, though none have been accepted by mainstream scholars, most likely due to the fact that since man began to look up and count at the same time he’s been predicting some form of galactic doom :: Read the full article »»»»
UNRELATED! Australian Marsupials Make Meal of Toxic Toads
A study has revealed that some small carnivorous marsupials in Northern Australia instinctively know how to avoid being poisoned by cane toads – Bufo Marinus. The University of Sydney’s Dr Jonathan Webband his team have found that red-cheeked dunnarts from the Kimberley in Western Australia are naturally wary of cane toads.
The discovery was made when scientists trapped the dunnarts and filmed their first encounters with toads. The marsupials’ killer bites were aimed at the heads of the toads, avoiding their toxic glands and a likely death by poisoning. The research team found that the dunnarts quickly learn that eating other parts of the toad is dangerous. During subsequent encounters the “toad-educated” dunnarts sniff the toads from a distance before rejecting them. The results support another project being run by the team in the Northern Territory which uses cane toad sausages to teach endangered Northern quolls to avoid eating the poisonous amphibians.
The northern quoll – Dasyurus Hallucatus – is an endangered marsupial predator that was once common throughout Northern Australia. The major threat to northern quolls is the highly toxic cane toad that is currently invading northern Australia. Like other native predators, northern quolls lack physiological resistance to toad toxins, and consequently, most quolls die after attacking large toads. Since cane toads invaded northern Australia, quoll populations have plummeted, and the species faces extinction on the mainland. Cane toads cannot be eradicated, and they will soon invade Western Australia :: Read the full article »»»»
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