Scientists from the University of Hawaii have found that NASA’s infrared satellite data could be used to predict the end of lava eruptions.
They tested a hypothesis initially published in 1981 which described the change of lava flow rate during a typical volcanic eruption. According to the model, once the eruption starts, the rate at which lava comes out of the vent rises rapidly to a peak and then over a longer period of time decreases to zero, ending the eruption.
To test the hypothesis, the researchers designed a system to detect and measure the heat emissions from 104 volcanic eruptions worldwide. The system utilized the infrared measurements generated by NASA's MODIS sensors.
Upon reaching the peak flow, they determined the curve of decreasing flow, and thereby predicted the end of the eruption. Though the model has been there for decades, this is the first time satellite data has been utilized to test the usefulness of this approach for predicting an eruption’s end. And, the test was a success.
The importance of this test is that it can be employed to alleviate the disturbance caused to the people affected by a volcanic-eruption.