A new methodology, based on a subtle but significant increase in heat emissions over large areas of a volcano in the years leading up to its eruption, can predict these events well in advance. This allows you to see that a volcano has awakened, often long before the other signs appear.
The new method was developed using satellite data by scientists at NASA and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
For several types of volcanoes that have erupted over the past two decades, the study team analyzed 16 and a half years of radiant heat data from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellites and NASA Aqua.
Despite the differences between the volcanoes, the results were consistent: In the years leading up to an eruption, the radiant surface temperature of much of the volcano rose by about 1 degree Celsius from its normal state. It decreased after each eruption.
In particular, scientists believe that an increase in heat may result from the interaction between magma deposits and hydrothermal systems. As JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) co-author of the study Paul Lundgren explains:
Volcanoes are like a box of mixed chocolates: they may look the same, but inside there is a lot of variety between them and sometimes even inside. On top of that, only a few volcanoes are well monitored, and some of the more potentially dangerous volcanoes are those that erupt less frequently, meaning historical records cannot be strictly trusted.