Up to 100 different sensors, some of which were put in place this summer, will be used to monitor volcanoes in Iceland as part of an extensive research project, which has garnered considerable attention around the world.
The eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. Photo: Páll Stefánsson/Iceland Review.
The project, sponsored by the European Union with a grant of ISK 1 billion (USD 8.4 million, EUR 6.3 million), aims to develop a system that can be used to monitor volcanic activity more efficiently in the future.
The GPS monitors, seismographs, radars, sensors that pick up on volcanic gases, changes in the electric field, expansion of volcanoes and sound waves will be placed by all of the country’s main volcanoes, most densely around the most active ones, ruv.is reports.
Some of these sensors have never been used in Iceland before, such as sound wave sensors that were placed in Þjórsárdalsskógur forest this summer.
“We study everything, the smallest earthquakes and tiniest activities. If volcanoes expand by only a few millimeters we will try to pick up on it, both with sensors on the ground and satellites, and connect everything with a model on how magma travels and how volcanoes behave,” said Freysteinn Sigmundsson, geophysicist at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences.
It is hoped that the start of an eruption can be anticipated a longer time in advance, that the development of an eruption can be predicted more accurately and that ash distribution forecasts can be made in more detail, among other objectives.
The volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 showed that there is need for better response plans and now Iceland has become some sort of an experimental laboratory for the rest of the world.
The Icelandic Met Office will receive data from all the sensors and serve as a center for the research project. “The big issue … is to take all the information, put it into context and process the data simultaneously,” said specialist at the Icelandic Met Office Benedikt G. Ófeigsson.
The project, which is a novelty, is led by the Icelandic Met Office and the University of Iceland in collaboration with 26 other institutions in ten countries.