Explosive volcanic jets produce eruption columns that often form buoyant ash clouds and may fully or partially collapse to form pyroclastic density currents, dangerous fast-moving lateral flows of hot ash and gas. These natural hazards directly threaten surrounding communities and global air traffic. Our ability to mitigate these risks is restricted by our inability to safely measure volcanic jets or monitor them co-eruptively. Infrasound (acoustic signals with frequencies below that of human hearing) provides a means to detect the atmospheric oscillations from volcanoes at distances of meters to thousands of kilometers from the source. This project aims to use these signals to constrain the physics of volcanic jets and measure them in real-time. These measurements may be used as input parameters for aviation safety ash-cloud prediction models and toward assessing the hazard presented to local communities by a given eruption. Additionally, this work will provide constraints on eruptive parameters and physics for numerical and experimental studies.

Recent infrasound recordings of volcanic jets have frequency spectra similar to the acoustic signal produced by man-made jets (jet noise). For the past 60 years, aeroacoustics has studied the relationship between the flow properties of man-made jets and the acoustic signal produced. Our long-term objective is to reverse this concept by determining the flow properties of volcanic jets based on the infrasound signal produced by the eruption. This work represents a first step toward this long-term goal. We begin by building a catalog of infrasonic jet noise observations to determine characteristic volcanic jet noise features and determine any correlations between these features and known eruptive parameters. This process includes searching existing infrasound databases using new signal processing tools and empirical and theoretical propagation modeling. We will then use analytical and numerical models of volcanic jets to adapt established empirical models of man-made jet noise to volcanic systems.

This project is supported by the Geophysics and Petrology & Geochemistry Programs and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)
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Raffaella Montelli
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University of California-San Diego Scripps Inst of Oceanography
La Jolla
United States
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