Historically, volcanoes have been nearly impossible to predict.
Dr. Gary Michelfelder, associate professor of geology at Missouri State University, wants to improve the forecasting of volcano eruptions. He has studied the Rio Grande Rift and the Andes Mountains in Chile for the last 15 years to understand how and why volcanoes erupt.
“Every volcano is its own animal, so to speak, and it behaves differently every time it erupts,” Michelfelder said.
All volcanoes have magma, but not all magma makes it to a volcano.
With a core value of involving his students, Michelfelder and his team dive deep into the Central Andes mountains.
This region holds roughly 15 volcanoes, and underneath, a magma body that is roughly the size of the state of Missouri.
By measuring mass, gas and other data with precise methods, Michelfelder and his team investigate the activities of this magma beneath the surface.
“These studies give us insight into understanding our planet,” Michelfelder said. “We can see why life is here compared to maybe life on another planet, or maybe lack of life in another climate.”
At the site in the Andes, the team’s findings reveal the magma is advancing through the stages at a faster rate than normal.
“We thought it might be residing for a hundred thousand years or more,” Michelfelder said. “Instead, the initial conclusion from evaluating the first two volcanoes is that it’s an ever-changing system.”