Right before a volcano erupts, molten rock, known as magma, is moving around underneath the surface. New research suggests this liquid magma is very rare. That’s an important finding for researchers trying to predict when a volcano may erupt.
Magma may not be bubbling beneath the Northwest’s volcanoes as much as you think.
Researchers studying Mount Hood have found that magma is often too cold to move around so much. And cold, here, is a relative term. About 750 degrees Celsius.
So why is the temperature of magma important? If it’s cold, the magma is immobile. And if it’s immobile, that means a volcanic eruption is not likely to happen any time soon.
Until now, researchers didn’t know how often magma is in this immobile state. Oregon State University’s Adam Kent co-authored the study. He says magma moves around under the surface less than 10 percent of the time.
Knowing how often magma turns to liquid can help researchers predict how close a volcano is to erupting.
Kent: “And so if then you were able to image a magma chamber that had a lot that was hot and in this eruptible state, the inference is that maybe an eruption is going to happen sooner rather than later.”
Kent says magma under other volcanoes may be similar to the Mount Hood study. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Nature.
Copyright 2014 http://earthfix.opb.org/land/article/volcanic-eruptions-could-be-rare-than-you-think/Earthfix.