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Volcano monitoring will target hazard threat to Marianas, US military and commercial jets
Date:2/25/2010

ogists in recent decades pioneered the use of infrasound to monitor nuclear test-ban compliance, and they continue to advance the technology. For the USGS project, they'll install equipment on three of the Marianas' 15 islands. In the event magma begins forcing its way upward, breaking rocks underground and ultimately erupting, seismometers will measure ground vibrations throughout the process, while GPS will capture any subtle changes or deformities in the surface of the Earth, and infrasound devices will record sound waves at frequencies too low to be heard by humans. Infrasound waves move slower than the speed of light but can travel for hundreds of miles and easily penetrate the earth as well as other material objects.

Nine Mariana Islands have active volcanoes. On average, the archipelago experiences about one eruption every five years, said Quick, who was previously program coordinator of the USGS Volcano Hazards Program. Most recently a volcano erupted in 2005 on the island of Anatahan, the largest historical eruption of that volcano, according to the USGS. It expelled some 50 million cubic meters of ash, the USGS reported, noting at the time that the volcanic plume was "widespread over the western Philippine Sea, more than 1300 nautical miles west of Anatahan." A volcano that erupted on the island of Pagan in 1981 has been showing many signs of unrest, Quick said.

Besides the USGS volcano project, SMU has been active in the Marianas through a memorandum of agreement to help the local government search for alternative energy sources, in particular geothermal.

The Marianas volcano project is part of a larger USGS program that is investing $15.2 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to boost existing monitoring of high-risk volcanic areas in partnership with universities and state agencies nationwide.

In targeting the Marianas, the USGS cited the evacuation of residents from the northern islands after the 19
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Contact: Kim Cobb
cobbk@mail.smu.edu
214-768-7654
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert

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