How Do You Study an Active Volcano? Very Carefully…

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has been in the news, with several new lava vents recently bursting open.  This brings up a question: How do you study an active volcano?

Researchers using Agilent equipment have developed a new field test for analyzing the gas emissions of erupting volcanoes.

As you can imagine, trying to use scientific equipment around an active volcano can be both tricky and hazardous.

“Due to the often rough and quickly changing meteorological conditions at typical sampling sites, e.g., high-altitude volcanoes facing varying wind velocities and directions,” the researchers write, “short sampling times are highly beneficial, which furthermore limit the exposition time for instruments and researchers in the volcanic risk area.”

Previous techniques required sampling times in the range of an hour.  The new technique, which employs an Agilent gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, allows sampling times in the range of minutes.

The technique was successfully employed at Mt. Etna in Italy.  Mt. Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and one of the world’s most frequently erupting volcanoes.  (That’s Mt. Etna you’re seeing during the fiery climax of the Star Wars movie “The Revenge of the Sith.”)

“Using this new and fast developing technology will be a step forward for taking samples at remote locations, such as a plume several hundreds of meters above the ground,” the researchers write.

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