Will a volcanic eruption be a burp or an eruption?

Last December, a A whiff of lava began to emanate from the summit of La Soufriere, a volcano on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. The effusion was sluggish at first; No one was threatened. Then in late March and early April, the volcano began releasing seismic waves associated with rapidly rising magma. Harmful fumes are strongly emitted from the top.

Fearing an impending rock bomb, the scientists sounded the alarm, and the government ordered the complete evacuation of the north of the island on April 8. The next day, the volcano began to erupt catastrophically. The evacuation was timely: at the time of writing, no lives had been lost.

At the same time, something outwardly similar, but completely different, happened on the edge of the Arctic.

Increasingly intense tectonic earthquakes have been rumbling under the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland since late 2019, strongly suggesting that the underworld is opening up, making way for magma to rise. In early 2021, when subterranean pythons of magma migrated around the peninsula in search of an escape hole to the surface, the Earth itself began to change shape. Then, in mid-March, the first of several fissures smashed across the Earth roughly where scientists had predicted it might happen, Lava spill in an uninhabited valley His name is Geldingadalur.

Here, locals immediately flocked to the eruption, strolling and taking selfies a stone’s throw from the lava flows. A concert was recently held there, where people treated the hills like amphitheater seats.

Either way, scientists haven’t accurately indicated a new eruption is on the way. They also predicted the two very different shapes these explosions would take. And while the “when” part of the equation is hard to predict, getting the “how” part right is particularly challenging, particularly in the case of the explosive eruption at La Soufriere. “This is disingenuous,” he said, “and they nailed it, they totally did it.” Diana Romanvolcanologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Volcanologists have developed an increasingly detailed understanding of the conditions likely to lead to a volcanic eruption. The presence or absence of groundwater is important, for example, as is the case with the gases of magma itself. And in a recent series of studies, researchers have shown how to read hidden signals — from seismic waves to satellite observations — so they can better predict how the eruption will develop: with a bang or a growl.

Something sinister this way comes

As with skyscrapers or cathedrals, the architectural designs of Earth’s volcanoes vary greatly. You get tall and steep volcanoes, very wide and shallowly sloped volcanoes, and huge and wide open calderas. Sometimes there is no volcano at all, but chains of small depressions or swarms of fissures scar the ground like claw marks.

The lava flows from Geldingadalur volcano were relatively weak and predictable.

Photo: Anton Brink/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Predicting an eruption raises many questions. Most importantly: when? In essence, this question is equivalent to asking the question of when magma travels from bottom to top through a conduit (the tube between magma and surface opening) and penetrates it, with lava and ash flowing, such as volcanic glass and bombs.

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