Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Geologist plans volcano safety for Ecuadorians

23.08.2007
A geologist at Washington University in St. Louis is doing his part to make sure that the small Latin American country of Ecuador follows the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.

Robert Buchwaldt, Ph.D., Washington University lecturer in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, is the only scientist from America who sits on an international committee that is seeking ways to address the volcanic threat in Ecuador, especially in Quito, a city of five million nestled against a volcano, Guagua Pichincha, that erupted just two years ago.

Buchwaldt, a couple of German scientists and a mixture of Ecuadorian politicians and citizens comprise the committee, which is called the Ecuadorian Volcanic Hazard Assessment Group. Its task is to develop an emergency plan in case of an eruption, which could happen again soon because magma temperatures are rising, according to Buchwaldt.

"Dealing with the threat of a volcano is not an uncommon problem," Buchwaldt said. "In North America, we have Seattle, which is adjacent to Mount St. Helens and two other volcanoes. They have a plan. We're trying to implement one in Quito, but the Latin American culture is different."

Money and communications problems

A key problem is wealth, or the lack thereof, in Ecuador.

"America is a First World country, but Ecuador is Third World, so financial support is not strong. Setting up seismometers is an expensive process. Hundreds will be needed, but currently there are only two near Quito set up by German researchers."

Ecuador, roughly the size of Nevada, has a whopping 270 volcanoes, twenty of which are active. The most active is Tungurahua, with 70 eruptions over the past 3,000 years.

Buchwaldt said a second major problem is communications.

"As scientists, we need to avoid the academic gobbledygook," he said. "The politicians, though, tend to dummy things down. We're seeking a communications platform that will enable us to communicate between different fields.

"What happens when you get a volcanic eruption, you have excited scientists because it means data. But data mean nothing to a normal citizen sitting there while a one-mile pyroclastic flow starts streaming by."

A pyroclastic flow is a very violent, destructive, gas-rich and fast-moving mass of rock flow from a volcanic vent. Imagine opening up a cola bottle and seeing the white flow of foam that accompanies that — the foam is an indication of gas separating, and that is what you have with the pyroclastic flow.

Buchwaldt said that the committee has plans in effect for public meetings that will educate the citizenry and government officials, explain the dangers and develop escape plans for Quito and other communities.

He made a presentation on projects there and the committee's work at a Goldschmidt Conference, held in Cologne, Germany on August 20-24, 2007.

Buchwaldt is just beginning research in Ecuador, and he has projects in Madagascar and Cameroon. His main interests are geochronology, petrology, and geochemistry.

"I'm interested in using well-established methods to understand the dynamics of systems, especially Earth systems," he said. "Volcanoes interest me greatly because they are very dynamic."

Resemblance to Western Washington state

Buchwaldt notes that western Washington state and Ecuador are similar in that they each are situated along a major subduction zone. A collective zone occurs throughout the Pacific Ocean and is called the Ring of Fire. Most of the volcanism on the planet occurs around these subduction zones. Volcanoes produced in subduction zones have different magmas than those produced in hot spot areas such as in Hawaii. In subduction zones, water is brought down into the mantle where it gets dissolved in the magma and therefore creates a gas-rich magma that produces a very explosive situation. In hot spot volcanoes, water is not involved, so the magma is more viscous and thus flows more easily.

Buchwaldt is looking at the chemistry of different magma deposits to see how different volcanoes evolve and determine the evolution of different volcanoes as well as the kinds of dynamic processes involved in volcanic eruptions. He also is using Geospatial Information Systems technology to detect the dominant flow patterns in the area with the goal of classifying different regions in terms of the severity of their volcanic potential.

What he finds will add to the geological record of Ecuador and the general knowledge base of volcanoes. But his findings also will help Ecuadorians plan city buildings and emergency buildings and escape routes to avoid future volcanic destruction.

During Spring Break 2007, Buchwaldt took 30 members of his Washington University geosciences class to a field trip in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands to study the differences in volcanoes.

"It was an extremely interesting opportunity for students to actually see real geology, at times as it was happening," he said. "A geologist needs to be outside looking at rocks and minerals. One of the memorable things was standing on a pyroclastic flow that had come down just two months before, and that flow was atop the foundation of a house it had overrun.

"It's kind of scary when you actually stand on a volcano and you feel the rumbling of the volcano mountain when the magma comes up and you see ash coming up at the top of the volcano. We were truly seeing the surface expression of this dynamic planet we're living on."

Tony Fitzpatrick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past
28.04.2017 | National Science Foundation

nachricht Citizen science campaign to aid disaster response
28.04.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>