Scientists in Ireland could be on the verge of being able to predict volcanic eruptions thanks to ground breaking new research.
A team at Trinity College Dublin have discovered a new method of analysing and explaining past explosions and this may be the key to preparing for future eruptions.
Dr Teresa Ubide is a Research Fellow in Geology at Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences. She says that the secrets of volcanoes could be discovered by studying magma crystals.
She said: “We need to understand how they work to be better prepared for volcanic eruptions, such as the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland, which collapsed air traffic across Europe and caused huge economic, political and cultural problems for huge numbers of people.”
Her team have published a report in the Chemical Geology journal which says that when volcanic cones and lava are visible above ground, they are being fed magma from deep below the surface.
The team believe that it is fresh magma within the reservoirs that triggers eruptions. Magmatic crystals grow outwards from the centre – similar to tree rings – and this helps experts to analyse the volcano’s history.
They have developed technology to remove the thin film from the surface of the crystals. They then analyse the particles to search for patterns of growth zones of the crystal.
Dr Ubide said: “Just as investigators reconstruct events to learn the truth, we prise magma injections from the crystals that are transported to the surface by erupted magmas to do the same thing.
“This method helps us form a detailed picture of the magma history.”
It is hoped that further study will help develop understanding of volcanic eruptions, and eventually allow scientists to predict future eruptions.