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Scientists launch a major warning about the world's most dangerous volcanoes

 

Scientists launch a major warning

 about the world's most dangerous volcanoes


Scientists have warned that some of the world's most dangerous volcanoes

are not sufficiently studied, making it difficult to predict the extent of

their eruption or when they might erupt.


The arc of successive volcanoes

or "The Cascade arc"

extends from Northern California in

the United States to British Columbia in Canada



and includes more than a dozen volcanoes

11 of which

including Mount Baker and Mount Hood

are classified

by the United States Geological Survey as a "very significant threat"

meaning they pose significant risks to people and infrastructure.


Despite

the potential for significant danger

scientists have little data on

where magma is stored under the "Cascade Arc"

knowledge that can help scientists better understand

and predict future explosions


Prediction of eruption

 is still far from accurate science

with different volcanoes exhibiting different

behaviors before the eruption and

in some cases, giving little warning.


A key aspect of explosion forecasting is the size

location and flow of magma under the volcano

which scientists say is missing in the "Cascade Arch" area.


A team led by Associate Professor Penny Weiser

said in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics

Geosystems:

 "Cascade's arc contains a number of large volcanoes that

pose a significant risk to the population and infrastructure


for example Mount St. 

Helens and Mount Rainier.

 To date, there has been no widespread review of where magma

(molten rock) is stored in the Earth's crust under these volcanoes


although understanding where magma is stored is very important to

help monitor disturbances in these volcanoes and predict future activity. "


In 1980

a devastating eruption from Mount St. Helens in Washington

 State killed 57 people. However, the behaviour of

this volcano is fairly well understood

so its future eruptions can be predicted.


A number of other volcanoes are located in the 

"Cascade Arch" 

near populated areas and pose a significant risk to people

but the team found their understanding to be very weak.


"We have compiled all available data on magma storage for each volcano

and found that many volcanoes had very few studies to look at

despite the risks they pose to society."


Seismic data

tilt scale readings and satellite information can detect Earth's

distortions indicating that magma is moving beneath the surface.

However

most research focuses on a few cascading volcanoes that

have already been well described.


Practical constraints can also

hinder scientists' understanding of volcanoes.

Sometimes magma does not move enough to be detected

and other times, noise from different geological processes

(including earthquakes from cracks) reduces the signal from magma.


The Panel recognizes that

owing to factors including inaccessible terrain

snow and ice cover, cost and difficulty in establishing surveillance


networks in land

areas have hampered data collection

but argues that understanding the depth of

magma storage is critical to interpreting signs of future explosions.