Technology designed to detect nuclear explosions and enforce the world's nuclear test-ban treaty now will be pioneered to monitor active volcanoes in the Northern Mariana Islands near Guam. The island of Guam soon will be the primary base for forward deployment of U.S. military forces in the Western Pacific.
The two-year, $250,000 project of the U.S. Geological Survey and Southern Methodist University in Dallas will use infrasound in addition to more conventional seismic monitoring to "listen" for signs a volcano is about to blow. The plan is to beef up monitoring of lava and ash hazards in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth.
The archipelago's active volcanoes threaten not only residents of the island chain and the U.S. military, but also passenger airlines and cargo ships. The USGS project calls for installing infrasound devices alongside more traditional volcano monitoring equipment seismometers and global positioning systems.
Scientists at SMU, which the USGS named the prime cooperator on the project, will install the equipment and then monitor the output via remote sensing. The project is a scientific partnership of the USGS, SMU and the Marianas government.
Infrasound hasn't been widely used to monitor volcanoes, according to noted volcano expert and SMU geology professor James E. Quick, who is project chief. Infrasound can't replace seismometers but may help scientists interpret volcanic signals, Quick said.
"This is an experiment to see how much information we can coax out of the infrasound signal," he said. "My hope is that we'll see some distinctive signals in the infrasound that will allow us to discriminate the different kinds of eruptive styles from effusive events that produce lava flows, or small explosive events we call vulcanian eruptions, to the large 'Plinian' events of particular concern to aviation. They are certain to have some characteristic sonic signature."
|Contact: Kim Cobb|
Southern Methodist University