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These Scientists Chase Volcanic Eruptions Because We’re So Bad at Predicting Them

These Scientists Chase Volcanic Eruptions Because We’re So Bad at Predicting Them


The obvious danger, when you’re working on a volcano, is dying. We know that at any point things could go
south in a bad, bad way. We take respirators to deal with
poisonous gases, we take hard hats to deal with small ejecta from the volcano …but there’s only so much you can prepare. When I’ve stood at the rim of an active volcano,
I feel like I’m getting a window inside the heart of our planet. It’s like looking into something from another world. That is when you can get really great data about the chemistry of the lava,
about the makeup of the gases, about how explosive the lavas might be, and about how much pressure you’re seeing in the magma chamber. More people than ever before are living in
areas that are volcanic hazards. We have millions and millions of people who live around these amazing things, but that are also deadly. My work involves looking at volcanoes in every different way you can imagine, to try to understand what makes them tick, and help me someday predict how they’re going to erupt. I mean, that’s really the holy grail of volcano research, because we really want to save lives. Field work when you’re studying volcanoes is different every single time. First you’ve got to get to the area, and that may mean taking a helicopter in, it may mean hiking through jungle-like vegetation or tromping through a desert. Volcanoes are unpredictable, and that is because we don’t have a good window inside of them. It’s not like you can drop a little robot
down and have it measure everything that’s going on. What we’re really looking for when we’re out there collecting data is information that shows a change. Is the composition of the gas different? Do we see that the volcano is inflating? Is the ground actually moving up or moving down as the magma chamber fills or evacuates? A volcano could be building up pressure inside of it without any outward indications. We make hazard maps, we look at old lava flows, map out where the lava has gone previously, and then say, “okay, worst case scenario,
what could this volcano do?” A lot of the data that we collect when we’re out in the field is used to make models and help to try to forecast eruptions. We can’t do that yet with any degree of certainty,
but we’re getting better. There have been many deaths, actually, of
volcano scientists while working on active volcanoes, and it’s very sad. But we’re prepared to take that risk, because we think that what we’re doing brings value to our greater society around us, and we want to add to that body of knowledge out there about our planet. All of us have a really healthy respect for
all the different parts of the natural world. It’s some sort of hell-scape, but it’s also
beautiful. The lava is this brilliant, brilliant red
and orange and it’s constantly moving. It never stops. It’s like an angry ocean. You get to see the freshest earth on the planet. So it really, to me, shows in the clearest
possible way that we have a living planet. And that is why I love it – that’s why I keep
coming back. In another episode of Science In The Extremes,
a biologist in Antarctica vlogs about the extreme conditions
in which he conducts research. Thanks for watching,
and be sure to subscribe to Seeker.

40 thoughts on “These Scientists Chase Volcanic Eruptions Because We’re So Bad at Predicting Them”

  1. Is there research going on to figure out a way to harness this incredible heat source and generate power. No mention of this in the video.

  2. FIrst I thought that DNews name change means new content. Now I see that they just are no longer doing the news, for what I will be unsubscribing.

  3. Or… or we could just let mother nature do its thing ya know? Why do we have to step in every time she tries to reduce the population? This shit we're in isn't sustainable, people need to start dying lol

  4. For all those Volcanologists who have passed on R.I.P. We owe you a debt that we cannot possibly pay. And to those still with us carrying out this vital work, to You and Your Families, thank You🌋☮️

  5. Don't become like the discovery channel and history channel where you over dramatise things and only give ppl what u think they want, which isn't typically interesting…

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