Studying volcanoes can be dangerous. In the 1990’s, for example, a dozen scientists were killed in two separate accidents while studying volcanoes. Clearly, improving our ability to predict the likelihood of volcanic eruptions could save lives.
Some volcanoes thought to be long dormant are now showing signs of life. Fortunately, we no longer need to go to the volcano’s rim to confirm this. NASA’s Terra satellite is equipped with an Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer instrument called Aster. New images from Aster indicate that two previously dormant volcanoes are now showing signs of activity. These volcanoes are located in the belt called ‘the ring of fire’ around the Pacific Ocean.
In January 2002, satellite thermal images showed new hot spots of volcanic activity in northern Chile. In addition, thousands of miles away, changes were detected near one of the long dormant Three Sisters volcanoes in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. Over the last six years, the ground has risen there approximately ten centimetres. This is indicative of a slow flow of underground lava in the region.
So next time you want to explore a volcano, it might be wise to first let Aster check it out for potential activity before you venture too close.