Simulated Seismic Signals Could Help Save Lives

Article ID: 545566

Released: 21-Oct-2008 11:25 AM EDT

Source Newsroom: University of Toronto

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Newswise — Imagine if a city could prepare its residents before a volcanic eruption, resulting in fewer fatalities and much less property damage. An international team working out of the University of Toronto's Rock Fracture Dynamics Facility is one step closer to realizing that goal.

For the first time, scientists have simulated the seismic signals that precede a volcanic eruption and created a 3-D visualization of those warning signs under controlled conditions. By performing tests on basalt rock from Sicily's still-active volcano Mt. Etna, the team was able to record the seismic waves generated during the earthquakes that occur before volcanic eruptions.

"Nearly 500 million people live close enough to the planet's 600 currently active volcanoes that they face serious harm, both physically and economically, should a major eruption occur. Being able to simulate the pressure conditions and events in volcanoes will greatly assist geophysicists in exploring the scientific basis for volcanic unrest. We cannot predict eruptions with total accuracy, but understanding these pre-eruption events better will help cities and towns near volcanoes know better whether they need to take the precaution of having people evacuate the area or not," said Dr. Paul Young, Keck Chair of Seismology and Rock Mechanics as well as U of T's Vice-President, Research.

Dr. Young noted that the information gathered through this investigation should also prove useful to other industries including mining and construction as well as to scientists studying other earth sciences phenomena

The international team of scientists involved in these ground-breaking experiments was Visiting Lassonde Institute Research Fellow, Dr. Philip Benson, who is also the Marie- Curie Research Fellow in Earth Sciences at University College London; Dr. Philip Meredith of the Rock and Ice Physics Laboratory, also from University College London; Dr.Sergio Vinciguerra of Rome's National Geophysics and Volcano Institute; and Dr. Young. Their findings are published in a recent edition of the journal Science.


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