Scientists are looking for a “clockwork” of volcanoes

Volcanoes are one of the brightest and most dangerous natural phenomena. Sunny Naples, a city with a million inhabitants is potentially one of the most dangerous places on the planet. It is located in the epicenter of the volcanic system, which is formed by the volcanoes of the nearby island of Ischia, on the one hand, the dormant super volcano from the Phlegrean fields, on the other, and the famous Vesuvius, with the third. The activation of any of these fire-breathing mountains can be a disaster for hundreds of thousands of people.

With the example of volcanoes concentrated around Naples, the scientists of the European Chronos project want to understand the effect of the internal geological clock of volcanoes in order to calculate the time of their possible awakening.

Mauro di Vito, volcanologist: “For today, we have least studied the system of bringing the volcanoes into action, namely, the mechanisms of magma formation, the evolution of magmatic mass. To dig so deep into the nature of volcanoes, we need to either use equipment similar to tomographs, or closely study volcanic rocks. ”

Geological clock

The study combines theoretical forecasting with intensive laboratory experiments. Why is it so important to study volcanic rocks?

Diego Perugini, a specialist in rocks: “This stone is like a clock that stopped at the moment of the crime and indicates the time of its commission …. We are looking for indications of the time intervals in which the multi-level volcanic system has passed from the state of rest to the active phase.”

From theory to practice: scientists rewind the film back, given that the current solid volcanic rock is the end product of magmatic activity.

Diego Perugini, a rock specialist: “We have restored this mechanism: when the hot magma rises into the underground crater, the process is activated, which in a simplified form can be compared with the process of making cappuccino. To make a drink you have to mix coffee and milk, so, the longer you stir, whisk, the more uniform and denser the liquid becomes. Having understood this mechanism, we can look deeper into the hard rocks, calculating how much time has passed since the beginning in the depths of the volcano of the chemical-physical reaction, mixing different layers of magma, which eventually led to the eruption .. ”

To test this idea in practice, a kind of mixer was developed at the University of Perugia, a device that allows melting and mixing of volcanic rocks.

Daniele Morghavi, volcanologist: “So we melted the volcanic rocks, then we fix the physical characteristics of the magma. In this we are helped by an apparatus, a viscometer, which measures the dynamic viscosity of substances at ultrahigh temperatures.

After the whipping procedure, the hardened magma is then again subjected to structural analysis. Scientists make measurements at different stages of treatment of liquid magma and so mark changes in its state in chronological order.

Diego Perugini, a specialist on rocks: “We were very intrigued by the fact that between the beginning of the process of internal fermentation, magma mixing and the actual eruption takes 20-30 minutes. We studied statistics on 200 eruptions on the planet. It turned out that, yes, in 99% of cases, the eruption is preceded by the processes of agitation of magma. ”

The eruption of the volcano – still remains one of the most difficult to predict natural processes. Understanding its essence, scientists believe, will eventually improve the management of situations in the risk zones.

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