Scientists Use Sound Waves to Detect Volcanic Activity in Alaska

Scientists can detect how, when and where a volcanic eruption will take place. The sound waves have been used as an effective medium for detecting volcanic eruption in a remote Alaska island to propose its hazards and intensity. The latest findings were published on April 4 in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

The volcanic eruption is called similar to thundering jet engines. The sound of the eruption is loud enough to shake a nearby land. If Seismometers are placed near a volcano, they can detect this shaking that is called ground-coupled airwaves (GCAs). Impacts on the Earth’s surface are caused by an acoustic wave in the atmosphere causes GCAs. Meteors and nuclear explosions also trigger GCAs.

On the other hand, shaking pattern produced by sound waves is different than that produced by earthquake waves. The sound waves travel through air, while the earthquake waves travel only via ground. Moreover, the sound observed by seismometers informs scientists about facts which can be missed otherwise.

“Due to the high number, remoteness and difficult logistics of the volcanoes we monitor, we often have less than ideal monitoring networks. In these cases, we use as many processing techniques as possible to help monitor and understand these volcanoes”, said lead study author David Fee, a research assistant professor at the Alaska Volcano Observatory and Wilson Alaska Technical Center in Fairbanks.

The new technique using sound waves was tested by Fee and his colleagues at Pavlof volcano. The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) already monitors some volcanoes in the state with infrasound low frequency sound waves outside of the range of human hearing. The AVO has now added sound-wave-monitoring to its techniques.

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