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Studying volcanoes with balloons
Date:8/14/2008

People do all kinds of crazy things in Hawaii, but flying balloons over a volcano usually isn't one of them. Unless you're Adam Durant, that is.

Durant, an adjunct geological sciences faculty member at Michigan Technological University, and colleagues took meteorological balloons to the Kilauea volcano this summer to make the first on-location measurements of volcanic gases as they actually spew from the mouth of the volcano. The Kilauea volcano began erupting in March.

Durant and Matt Watson, also an adjunct faculty member at Michigan Tech, are working with Paul Voss of Smith College to measure the temperature, composition and water content of the volcanic gases. Durant and Watson both are Michigan Tech alumni who are doing postdoctoral work at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

"The first flight was a success and made the first in situ measurements of gases in a volcanic plume using meteorological balloons," Durant reported in a talk at Michigan Tech.

In addition to seeing volcanoes up closeDurant and his colleagues wear goggles and breathing masks at the infernal mouth of the volcanohe analyzes the plumes using controlled meteorological (CMET) balloons, which have altitude control and drift with winds.

"The balloons are piloted remotely by satellite link," Durant explained, "with flight visualization using Google Earth. We were looking at tropospheric volcanic emissions of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and water, which can be hazardous to human and animal health and degrade ecosystems."

The scientists released two balloons in July that rode the winds in and out of the plumes emanating from Kilauea's Halema'uma'u crater. Using instruments hanging below the balloon, the researchers measured the gases as the plumes rose up and away from the active volcano, one of three on Hawaii.

After the first balloon was released into strong winds left over from tropical storm Elida, it worke
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Contact: Jennifer Donovan
jdonovan@mtu.edu
906-487-4521
Michigan Technological University
Source:Eurekalert

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