Tiny earthquakes are often detected under volcanoes prior to eruption, caused by the movement of molten rock beneath the surface. By studying these seismic events, we hope to be able to predict volcanic activity better in the future. Our exhibit showcases current research in the explosive field of volcano seismology, investigating the 30,000 earthquakes that led up to a spectacular six-month eruption in Iceland.
Monitoring volcanic regions in Iceland is important because eruptions are frequent and the impacts are wide-ranging. Explosive eruptions under ice can cause rapid and destructive flooding of inhabited areas downstream, and can propel huge ash clouds into the atmosphere, disrupting air travel around the globe. Gentle eruptions, producing large lava flows, can release millions of tonnes of harmful gases. Studying earthquakes helps in understanding the physical processes that occur in volcanic systems, such as molten rock intruding through the Earth's crust or collapse of the centre of a volcano. The more we understand about the behaviour of these systems, the better we can forecast eruptions. Our studies also provide an analogue of fracking, highlighting the potential seismic side effects of geological engineering.
Find out more about the Explosive Earth Exhibit and try the google maps Holuhraun lava flow game.
Presented by: University of Cambridge, Guralp Systems Ltd, Schlumberger and NERC
Bárðarbunga-Holuhraun Fissure Eruption, Iceland 2014. Understanding this eruptions might help us to better forecast eruptions in future. Credit: Arctic Images