Fizz, Bubble And Pop July 23, 2007Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Environment, Physical and Chemical Reactions, Think About It.
Most of us have seen the intense pictures of an erupting volcano, which shows scorching hot lava flowing down the steep terrain. But what about those volcanoes that just seem to bubble, froth and fizz without ever properly erupting? Well, scientists think that the reason for this occurrence can be found deep in the volcano. The problem is-who wants to climb into the volcano to check? Not me! Fortunately, there are safe ways to find out.
Good Old Stromboli
Stromboli sounds like the name of a pizza but in this case, I’m way off the mark! One specific volcano in Italy called Stromboli has been spluttering up several hundred meter high jets of red hot lava for thousands of years. Patrick Allard, a researcher at the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (that’s a mouthful!) in Catania, Italy and his colleagues have been studying the gases to determine their types. How’d they do that? Well, it’s actually really cool.
They directed infrared light into the gases and then analyzed the spectra of light that the gases emitted. When a gas becomes excited, it emits a line spectrum. Different kinds of gas will emit different kinds of line spectrums so researchers can use this information to identify the gas. They also looked at models of Stromboli and it was then that they realized the jets were actually coming from gas bubbles way deep down from the volcano floor. How deep? Try 3 kilometers deep!
So What Does This Mean?
It could mean that the gas bubbles are forming at cracks on the volcano floor and then sort of fizzing up-kinda like a can of pop when you shake it just a little-before breaking the surface of Stromboli. I don’t know about you, but frankly, I’m relieved that there are safe scientific ways to learn about this stuff. As beautiful as the volcano pictures are, I really didn’t want to imagine anyone getting too near that burning lava.
Credit: Pictures were generously provided by Jürg Alean, Roberto Carniel and Marco Fulle from www.stromboli.net. Their project involves educating people about volcanoes and the Earth Sciences through images and other media.