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Volcano in Manawatū due to erupt at lunchtime tomorrow

March 10, 2014

Volcano due to erupt at lunchtime tomorrow

Massey University’s Volcanic Risk Solutions team have predicted a volcanic eruption in Manawatū tomorrow – right down to the minute.

Team members are staging a volcanic eruption in the old campus boiler room with a machine built to better understand volcanic flows and assist with hazard planning.

Professor Shane Cronin and Dr Gert Lube are leading the world-first research project that is investigating the physical properties of pyroclastic flows.

Pyroclastic flows are a hot mixture of gas and ash particles that are emitted during a volcanic eruption.

“They spread a long way and are probably the deadliest process of a volcano,” Professor Cronin says. “At the moment, when we try to map out the destruction zones and hazard zones, we often underestimate because the physical models we have to describe them are inadequate.”

The 15m tall simulator will re-create the velocities and physics present inside a pyroclastic flow.

The first test of the simulator, last year, used polystyrene balls but tomorrow the team will use 2000-year-old volcanic material taken from Lake Taupo to closely mimic what actually happens when a volcano erupts. Sensors and cameras will record the flows.

“We can’t measure these things in the field, because we can’t switch a volcano on and off or tell it to produce the same sized eruption in the same place, so we needed to build something that could simulate the process on a scale that is useful.”

The project has generated strong international interest. Among those at tomorrow's simulation will be United States volcanologist Dr Greg Valentine from Buffalo University in New York.

ENDS

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