Volcanic eruptions seen from Space, sulfur dioxide collected

April 2, 2019 5:51 PM |

Volcanic Eruption from Space

Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a satellite can help detect gases emitted by volcanoes. The researchers can now take snapshots of eruptions every one to two hours. To this, the scientists are zooming out to get a more complete global view of volcanic eruptions, 1.6 million kilometres out to be very precise.

By monitoring these events, it would become easy for scientists to quickly pinpoint potentially dangerous airspace. Many of Earth’s roughly 1500 potentially active volcanoes are in remote areas. It becomes difficult to regularly study ongoing eruptions. Thus, a need for satellite monitoring is a must.

Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Technological University along with his colleagues used DSCOVR’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) to observe 16 eruptions. They collected ultraviolet measurements of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a gas frequently emitted by volcanoes. Carn also mentioned that sulfur dioxide is the easiest volcanic gas that can be measured because it is relatively rare in the atmosphere. He said that the eruptions generally evolve rapidly, thus higher the frequency of observations, better is the ability to track them. EPIC showed the eruption of Tinakula on the South Pacific's Solomon Islands on October 20, 2017

At present, DSCOVR transmits data to Earth only when the satellite is in view of receiver antennas in Virginia and Alaska. Carn suggested that installation of more receivers around the globe would allow scientists to collect and analyze measurements instantly.

Image Credit: Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory and NASA's Johnson Space Center

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