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Inside the Active Volcano On Montserrat

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the magma-sponge dept.

Earth 42

Roland Piquepaille writes "An international team of researchers has begun collecting imaging data on the Soufriere Hills Volcano in Montserrat, which has been erupting regularly since 1995. They're using the equivalent of a CAT scan to understand its internal structure and how and when it erupts. The experiment is dubbed SEA-CALIPSO and 'will use air guns and a string of sensors off the back of a research ship combined with sensors on land to try to image the magma chamber.' Early results are surprising. Quoting one of the leading scientists: 'The interesting thing is that much more magma is erupting than appears represented by the subsiding bowl. ... The magma volume in Montserrat eruptions is much larger than anyone would estimate from the surface deformation, because of the elastic storage of magma in what is effectively a huge magma sponge.'"

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42 comments

Magnafique! (-1)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209269)

Magnafique!

Re:Magnafique! (0)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209291)

Doh! Magmafique. Oh, forget it...

Re:Magnafique! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26209395)

-1 Pathetic

Just kidding. Please don't cry.

Re:Magnafique! (-1, Offtopic)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209605)

Great!

And here I was, thinking I'd never find an example of simultaneous sadness and laughter.

Don't worry, It happens in the best families. You can take off the paper bag now.

Montserrat Volcano Observatory (5, Informative)

foobarb (659413) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209333)

http://www.mvo.ms/ [www.mvo.ms] Pictures and info about the volcano, official site.

Re:Montserrat Volcano Observatory (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26216405)

*Dr Evil Voice*
Well, I for one welcome our "Mol-ten Mag-ma" overlords!

Do they have fricken lasers on their heads?
*End Dr Evil Voice*

Live comments from an on-site reporter (4, Funny)

this great guy (922511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209369)

Reporter: The magma volume in Montserrat eruptions is much larger than anyone would estimate and... oh! look at that burst of lava ! I have never seen anyth- OMG I FEEL THE EARTH RUMBLIN-
Studio anchor: ... Charles ? Do you hear me ? *turning to his co-anchor* Is he still with us ?

Re:Live comments from an on-site reporter (1)

upuv (1201447) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209639)

Nothing to see here.
Move along please.
Move along.

Go back to your homes!

Note to those guys...Contact NERV. (3, Funny)

DeusExCalamus (1146781) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209431)

Better find an EVA unit complete with the D-Type armor, just in case there's an Angel lurking in the depths. :)

Ah, yes. (0, Offtopic)

El Jynx (548908) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209455)

The topography of the world's Zits. I wonder whether we will ever find a magma variant for Clearasil? Or is the Yellowstone Caldera still doomed to become one of those huge monstrous red scars no matter how much we scrub?

Re:Ah, yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26211529)

I wonder whether we will ever find a magma variant for Clearasil?

Like a freeze ray?

Is it just me or.... (4, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209459)

Does anyone else wish we could call the Enterprise back Earthside to do geologic surveys of this planet?

Space travel is a good goal, but if you consider all the things that Star Trek presented as part of space travel, I'd be impressed if we started inventing them now to study THIS planet. Perhaps if we understood volcanoes better, we'd understand more about climate control for the planet and THAT would be a worthy goal. It's always good to hear there is money still for such research. Gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Been there.. (5, Interesting)

MoellerPlesset2 (1419023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209569)

It's a beautiful place, beautiful volcano too. Odd fact of the kind they tell tourists: It once erupted and killed everyone except a guy who was in jail in an underground cell.

Re:Been there.. (-1, Offtopic)

theredshoes (1308621) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209599)

That is interesting, that you have been there, and of course if you get close enough, it kills. It is part of God's creation and thatâ(TM)s all there is to it my opinion, that is my view. :) To the crowd on here though, it is extremely scientific, so I don't have much to contribute. Nature is cruel as well as kind. There is much more to be said, but not by me.

Re:Been there.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26209999)

Thankyou for wasting several seconds of my valuable time with your mumbo-jumbo.

Re:Been there.. (0)

Bloater (12932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209625)

I'm wasting my mod points now by posting, but I can't let that lie. A volcanic eruption that can kill everybody spouts vast quantities of CO2 - that's how it kills them - it suffocates them.

The guy in prison would be the first to go because CO2 is heavier than air and would fill the gaol as soon as possible.

Re:Been there.. (1)

theredshoes (1308621) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209667)

Well I don't want you to waste your points, asphyxiation is a side effect of a volcanic eruption. But if you think about it, who would live near a volcano without knowing that it could kill them? I am sure they are very aware that nature in this instance is deadly and climate change is real, not a gamble or an impossibility.

Most people live either completely ignoring nature, trying to live in harmony with nature or they are even beholden to it and depend on their living and prosperity completely to survive. I think trying to live in harmony with it is probably best for most of society, if we want to survive. Like I said, I do not want to upset anyone on this board, so I don't think commenting any further is necessary about my views on nature, which I am sure no one will share here.

Re:Been there.. (5, Informative)

Nil000 (927828) | more than 5 years ago | (#26210441)

This particular incident was the 1902 eruption of St. Pelee on Martinique which killed 30,000 people in Saint-Pierre. What killed everyone in this case was not CO2 but a Nuee Ardente or pyroclastic flow. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Pierre,_Martinique [wikipedia.org] There was a survivor who was in the town jail. There used to be some items from the town in the Natural History museum in London, including half molten glasses and bottles.

No, that was Martinique (5, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209779)

Either you or the tour guide were very much mistaken. The famous story about the guy in the underground jail cell refers to the May 8, 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelée on Martinique [sdsu.edu] , a different volcano on a different island.

Re:No, that was Martinique (3, Insightful)

gomiam (587421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209969)

And he wasn't the only survivor, just the publicized one.

Re:No, that was Martinique (1)

Petronius Arbiter (548328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26217125)

When I visited Martinique, the local version was that the alleged sole survivor of Pelee (a prisoner in an underground cell) might well have been a con artist.

1. In the days before he was "rescued", the heat would have penetrated the cell and killed him.

2. He spent the following years touring with PT Barnum's circus, advertised as the sole survivor.

The theory is that he was outside the blast area, and entered the cell after the blast before the searchers.

The sad story of St Pierre is a good example that, when the government tells you that there is nothing to fear, that it may be time to get the hell out of there. The volcano was threatening, people wanted to leave, the government said to stay.

Re:No, that was Martinique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26227467)

i bet you are a riot at parties.

Last psot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26209681)

licken my GOATSE you filthy faggets!!! ./ is the new digg

misleading title and analogy (3, Insightful)

i*i+1 (1414943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26210899)

The use of the CAT scan analogy is rather poor for several reasons. This study uses a typical ground and sea based seismic survey. There is a new move in the earth sciences to actually use portable MRIs (like this one [magritek.com] [magritek - terranova]) to obtain images of the earth, so when I initially skimmed the article, I saw the CAT scan reference so many times that I thought they might be trying something similar.
While seismology and cat scans share the basic purpose of remotely sensing the insides of an object and cat scans would be familiar to many readers, the analogy should have only been used once, in the body of the article. NOT in the title. A "CAT scan" DID NOT reveal "inner workings of volcano island." A seismic survey did.

Re:misleading title and analogy (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26225511)

A "CAT scan" DID NOT reveal "inner workings of volcano island." A seismic survey did.

Quick check - what does the CAT in "CAT scan" mean?
Computer
Assisted (or Aided)
Tomography

CAT is a series of techniques where sensor imaging taken from a number of different angles are deconvolved to try to work out a parsimonious solution to the internal arrangement of parts that would generate the images actually seen.

So, if the seismic survey(s) in question had been carried out along various different radii from the volcanic centre, or on different tangents (if they used for example a stationary geophone array and cruised a source past it on the other side of the volcano), then the description of the techniques as "Computer Assisted Tomography" would be quite appropriate. Unless, of course, the geophysicists in question had done all their data processing with an abacus. No, wait, an abacus is still a computer.

FWIW, the "CAT" terminology in seismic processing was being accepted by the editors of 'Nature' over a decade ago.

Re:misleading title and analogy (1)

i*i+1 (1414943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26228313)

"the "CAT" terminology in seismic processing was being accepted by the editors of 'Nature' over a decade ago." Perhaps, I guess I've just never heard anyone use the term in discussions (though I've only been in the field for about 3 years now). So I do concede that "CAT" terminology may be appropriate, but the article uses "CAT scan," which has a distinctly medical connotation.

Since a volcano is just a pressure cooker... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26211225)

Couldn't they divert the lava flow by digging a giant trench in the side of the volcano and then allowing the magma to escape? Like the relief valve on a pressure cooker. Instead of the explosion of the volcano covering the island with magma and ash, point the trench out to sea and create a more controlled explosion, like a relief valve. Plus the lava could expand the amount of land available on the island.

Re:Since a volcano is just a pressure cooker... (1)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26211427)

But how can you guarantee the safety of workers when they're setting up the drill? That's no small drill and would need some time to set up properly, and while the workers are setting up the drill the volcano may explode.

Re:Since a volcano is just a pressure cooker... (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#26212871)

But how can you guarantee the safety of workers when they're setting up the drill? That's no small drill and would need some time to set up properly, and while the workers are setting up the drill the volcano may explode.

Sigh. You're really just not cut out for this line of work. What is the meaning of a few lives lost when you're building your underground lair in the bowels of an active volcano to further your goal of world domination?

1. Tame volcano.
2. Build secret underground lair inside volcano.
3. ???
4. Profit.

Note that the elusive step 3 is, in all likelihood, 'build doomsday device'. If you don't yet have plans for said doomsday device, or the means to force geniuses to produce one for you, I'd recommend against initiation of step 1.

Seriously, when did supervillains become so unimaginative and weak? Safety of the workers is meaningless. If you're smart, you'll be making sure they all experience a massive "accident" just after completing their work, anyway.

Re:Since a volcano is just a pressure cooker... (2, Interesting)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26215959)

i'm not a volcanologist, but this seems like it could be done by:

  1. using seismic surveys and land-based surface measurements to determine when the volcano approaching its eruptive phase and only work when there is minimal activity.
  2. use ground penetrating sonar or seismic survey data, locate the exact position of the magma chamber(s).
  3. drill towards the magma chamber at an angle so that you're not working directly above the volcanic system.
  4. use unmanned or remotely-operated drilling machines [wikipedia.org] for the last mile of the tunnel.

i mean, we have the technology to operate machinery remotely using video feeds and radio communication. and wasn't there a recent story about some deep sea drilling operation hitting a pocket of magma on accident? i know in 2005 a geothermal drilling site in Hawaii [physorg.com] also came upon a magma chamber [bbc.co.uk] on accident. seems like if they could tunnel into a magma chamber on accident without problem, then they can certain do so safely with prior planning.

the tunnel at Puna site was 1.5 miles deep, which is about half as deep as the ceiling of Montserrat's magma chamber; add to that another ~41% if you're tunneling in at a 45 degree angle, and it'll take quite a bit longer, but it's still feasible. i think the bigger probably might be keeping the magma flowing rather than cooling down and clogging the channel, but perhaps this won't be a problem for an active volcanic system.

Beautiful Place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26211365)

Great island if you can get there
not a whole lot to attract tourists. you go there if you want to do some diving, see a volcano, or have true peace and quiet w/o having to worry about spending your time with hundreds of other travellers...
the golf course also has the world's biggest sand trap too...

Re:Beautiful Place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26215817)

or have true peace and quiet w/o having to worry about spending your time with hundreds of other travellers...

not now you're spending it with a million other slashdotters. great going guy.

Great, just brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26220267)

Another great article, really good investigative journalism. I think Smackdot.org has outdone itself, this is just incredible. Volcanos, you are talking volcanos! Hell yeah!

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