posted on Dec, 28 2008 @ 02:17 PM
reply to post by TwiTcHomatic
Well, I have to disagree with you Twitch. I see that the seismologists and vulcanologists take the theory and use hard science on a daily basis to
study and predict what a volcano will do. Daily. The USGS is a very hardworking and intelligent entity concerned with not only THEORY but also FIELD
I dont think that I can write off the science as just some un-substantiated data. There is hard science at work here and I think that they monitor
volcanic activity here very carefully.
A supervolcano is of course a bigger version, and I think it wouldnt vary to much from a "regular" volcano in its makeup i.e.- caldera, magma
chamber, vents, flues, gas pockets etc. These are definitely within the ability of scientists to monitor and watch.
Here is some info about USGS
The USGS volcano observatories have the following goals in common:
* Research directed toward understanding volcanic processes and products.
* Evaluation of the ongoing hazards posed by the active volcanoes.
* Delivery of warnings to public officials regarding these hazards.
To realize these goals, it is necessary to conduct visual and instrumental monitoring of volcanic activity. Monitored changes common to each volcano
include the following:
Seismicity -- Earthquakes commonly provide the earliest warning of volcanic unrest, and earthquake swarms immediately precede most volcanic
Ground Movements -- Geodetic networks are set up to measure the changing shape of the volcano surface caused by the pressure of magma moving
underground. Techniques commonly used include electronic distance measurement using a laser light source (EDM); measurement of tilt, both
electronically and by repeated leveling of triangular arrays; and standard leveling surveys to obtain elevation changes. Additionally, very simple and
inexpensive techniques, such as measuring crack openings using a steep tape, or noting changes in water level around a crater lake, have proven useful
in certain situations. Upward and outward movement of the ground above a magma storage area commonly occurs before eruption. Localized ground
displacement on steep volcanoes may indicate slope instability precursory to mass failure.
Geophysical Properties -- Changes in electrical conductivity, magnetic field strength, and the force of gravity also trace magma movement. These
measurements may respond to magma movement even when no earthquakes or measurable ground deformation occurs.
Gas Geochemistry -- Changes in fumarole gas composition, or in the emission rate of SO2 and other gases, may be related to variation in magma
supply rate, change in magma type, or modifications in the pathways of gas escape induced by magma movement.
Hydrologic Regime -- Changes in ground water temperature or level, rates of streamflow and transport of stream sediment, lake levels, and snow and
ice accumulation are recorded to evaluate (1) the role of ground water in generating eruptions, (2) the potential hazards when hot, energetic volcanic
products interact with snow, ice, and surface streams, and (3) the long-term hazard of infilling of river channels leading to increased flood
Reconstructing a Volcano's History
Direct observations of volcanoes before, during, and after eruptions are essential to understanding a volcano's current behavior. The following
studies complement information gained from monitoring and allow specification of the entire history of activity at a given volcano or volcanic
Geologic Mapping -- Geologic mapping places layered and more irregular deposits in the proper stratigraphic order and establishes their thickness
and areal extent (and thus volume). Field descriptions of stratigraphic units are used to classify deposits and interpret the type of eruption that
produced them. Mapping of ash deposits is used to correlate widely separated stratigraphic sections associated with a given volcano. Dating of ash
layers is especially valuable to bracket ages of other, less extensive, deposits in individual stratigraphic sections.
Dating -- Dating of deposits establishes the time intervals in which eruptions or hydrologic events occurred. Techniques commonly used for young
Carbon-14 -- This technique is used where eruptions overlie or incorporate vegetation or organic-rich soil and the carbon-bearing material is
Tree Rings -- Traumatic injuries to trees are represented by interruption or distortion of growth rings. In some cases, the season in which
the event occurred can be specified based on knowledge of the yearly cycles of tree-ring growth.
Paleomagnetism -- In some areas, it has been possible to calibrate yearly changes in the position of the Earth's magnetic pole over the past
several hundreds or thousands of years. In such cases the magnetic directions preserved in a series of eruptive deposits may be used to specify their
Understanding Volcanic and Hydrologic Processes
Direct observation of volcanic and hydrologic events gives important but incomplete insights into the nature of volcano hazards. The following topics
represent some of the avenues pursued to gain a fuller understanding of volcanic processes that control hazardous events.
Numerical Modeling -- Numerical modeling is used to test our understanding of physical processes, and hazard predictions can eventually be made on
the basis of modeled events. Volcano-related processes amenable to modeling include (1) the gravity-driven flow of lava, hot pyroclastic debris,
landslide debris, water-saturated mixtures of mud and rock, and water floods; (2) the dispersal of volcanic ash plumes and thickness of ash
accumulation on the ground; (3) the development of eruption- or landslide-induced waves; (4) the time of occurrence and magnitude of outbreak floods
from lakes dammed by volcanic debris; and (5) the flow of groundwater and the dynamics of hydrothermal systems.
Experimental Research -- Experimental research is necessary to model volcanic processes that can not be studied directly or safely in the field or
are too complicated to model numerically. Experiments can be designed to simulate volcanic conditions and infer possible consequences of volcanic
activity. For example, a gelatin mold injected with a colored fluid mimics patterns of subsurface magma movement. Specially designed flumes simulate
the properties of dense slurries and help scientists to better understand the development and movement of debris flows. Other topics, such as the
origin of magmas by melting in the Earth's mantle, and their subsequent crystallization, can be studied by a combination of laboratory experiments,
numerical modeling, and interpretation of chemical variation in erupted lavas.
Excerpts taken from Wright and Pierson, 1992, Living with Volcanoes, The U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program: U.S. Geological Survey
Circular 1073, and the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory Website, 2006, with some wording updated.