Geologists are now using a technique traditionally used in weather and climate forecasting to develop new eruption forecasting models.
By testing if the models are able to capture the likelihood of past eruptions, the researchers are making strides in the science of volcanic forecasting.
Geologists typically forecast eruptions by looking for established patterns of pre-eruption unrest such as earthquake activity, groundswell and gas release, the researchers said.
“By looking back in time with our models, or hindcasting, we can now observe is that stress had been building up in the rocks around the chamber for weeks, and the growth of the magma system ultimately led to its failure and eruption.”
“While we stopped our analysis after the 2008 eruption, we are now able to propagate this new model forward in time, bring it to present day, and forecast where Okmok volcano is heading next,” Gregg said.
The researchers posit that these models will continue to find other less-recognized eruption precursors, but acknowledge that every volcano is different and that the models must be tailored to fit each unique system.
Reference: “Hindcasting Magma Reservoir Stability Preceding the 2008 Eruption of Okmok, Alaska” by J. A. Albright, P. M. Gregg, Z. Lu, and J. T. Freymueller, DOI: