Helium escape may help predict volcanic activity

Europe’s tallest active volcano, Mount Etna, rises 3,300 meters above the island of Sicily, which lies just off the coast of Italy’s “toe.” Within 100 kilometers of more than 3 million people, Etna frequently rumbles and occasionally belches. As recently as last May, explosions accompanied lava fountains and ash erupted from one of the volcano’s craters over several days. This was just one of many eruptions in a long line of events, with historical documents dating similar outbursts back to 1500 B.C. Scientists cannot pinpoint when Etna will next erupt, but in a new study in Geology, researchers have identified a clue that may help them better understand how the volcano’s inner plumbing system changes just prior to an eruption.

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Elizabeth Goldbaum

Goldbaum is a freelance science writer based in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 06:00