Volcano seismology

Geophysical methods are fundamental in the monitoring of volcanoes. Partly to know if an eruption is imminent but also what character the eruption may take. This is so that warnings can be issued in time and that reasonable measures can be taken depending on the distance from the volcano. The reason this is possible is that a volcanic eruption usually, but not always, is preceded by some sort of “unusual” activity prior to an eruption. It can, for example, be that the volcano "inflates" because the amount of magma or gas increases in the system (e.g. in a shallow magma chamber), or that the seismic activity increases when the magma intrudes into the system underneath the volcano. If the precision of the earthquake locations is high enough, one may follow the magma movements, and thus know where in the volcanic system an eruption is likely to occur. Another important tool is the use of various geophysical methods to try to image the volcano interior. That way we can get better at predicting the time and scope of an eruption as unusual signals from the volcano is registered. Here at the geophysics program, we work primarily with seismological tools, but also electromagnetic ones, in order to image the volcano's interior. The interpretation of our models is done in close collaboration with geologists and volcanologists – both here and at other universities. We also work with and develop systems for registering and locating earthquakes in near real time.

Contact: Olafur Gudmundsson, Ari Tryggvason, Björn Lund

Seismic measuring equipment on a volcanic crater rim. Photo.
Temporary seismic station at the rim of the Katla Volcano, south Iceland.