“There has been a lot of progress in the last 30 or 40 years in the understanding of geological and evolutionary processes, but it’s still difficult to know for sure what happens at 40 to 80 kilometers (25 to 50 miles) of depth,” said Pedro Hernández, an expert with the Canary Islands’ volcanology institute, Involcan.

They come with eagle-eyed drones and high-precision instruments. Aided by satellites, they analyze gas emissions and the flows of molten rock. On the ground, they collect everything from the tiniest particles to “lava bombs” the size of watermelons that one of nature’s most powerful forces hurl as incandescent projectiles, AP reports.

Scientists from around the world are flocking to La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, to take advantage of a volcanic eruption happening just an hour’s drive from an international airport and the safety of being able to work under the escort of military brigades. They are applying cutting-edge technologies to scrutinize a rare volcanic eruption from the land, the sea, the air — and even space.

As in the two dozen other major live eruptions across the planet, from Hawaii to Indonesia, the ultimate goal on La Palma is to use a unique window of opportunity to better understand volcanic eruptions: how they form, develop and, even more crucially for the islanders, how and when they end.

But despite recent technological and scientific leaps, the researchers can only do a lot of estimating of what happens in the underworld where magma is formed and melts any human-made equipment. The deepest that humans have been able to drill into the planet’s crust has been just over 12 kilometers (7.6 miles), a feat that Soviet scientists achieved in 1989.

“There has been a lot of progress in the last 30 or 40 years in the understanding of geological and evolutionary processes, but it’s still difficult to know for sure what happens at 40 to 80 kilometers (25 to 50 miles) of depth,” said Pedro Hernández, an expert with the Canary Islands’ volcanology institute, Involcan.

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