Fumaroles and boiling mudpools in the caldera of the volcanic system Krafla in the north of Iceland (Mývatn region).

An Edge Hill academic, together with a team of scientists from the Open University and the University of Ednburgh, has developed a new technique to help predict when a volcano is most likely to erupt.

Dr Joaquin Cortes

Dr Joaquin Cortes

Dr Joaquin Cortes, senior lecturer in Geography at Edge Hill University and Dr Stephen Blake, a reader in Volcanology at The Open University have co-authored the research which can help predict eruptions based on measurements of how much the nearby ground swells, or inflates.

Gradual inflation of the ground often occurs before an eruption and is a well-known phenomenon at many active volcanoes. It is attributable to pressurised magma accumulating within a shallow chamber and usually culminates in a rapid deflation caused by magma escaping from the chamber.

This can, in some cases, produce a volcanic eruption. Through analysing this activity at Krafla volcano in Iceland, the team of scientists found that the time when eruptions started was closely related to the changing rate of ground swelling, which can be measured ahead of time and therefore used to make forecasts.

Dr Cortes said: “Although our methodology has been applied to a specific type of eruption triggering at Krafla volcano, we are currently working to develop a more general approach, which will have deep implications on monitoring other active volcanoes. I believe we are indeed a bit closer on the elusive issue of fully forecasting volcanic eruptions”

The research, ‘Forecasting deflation, intrusion and eruption at inflating volcanoes’, is published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.