Volcanoes can be reborn quickly, new study reports

Just because the local volcano appears to be dormant, it could come to life quickly, according to a new study.

Costa Rica has many volcanoes that are not popping out fiery rocks like Arenal or bubbling and throwing off steam and gases like Póas, Turrialba and Irazú.

Until now, scientists used to think that a supposedly dormant volcano would take a long time to come back to life, perhaps centuries.

Not so, said two scientists in an article published in an online science journal, Nature.

They are Alain Burgisser of the Institut des Sciences de la Terre d’Orléans in France and George W. Bergantz of the  Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, in Seattle. The article is titled “A rapid mechanism to remobilize and homogenize highly crystalline magma bodies.”

They say in an abstract of the article that convection from below of hot magma can liquify the volcano’s solidified magma chamber much faster than had been suspected. The hot magma rises to the top and mixes with the solidified material in the same way soup boils.

They calculated the speed with which the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines and the one at Montserrat erupted. They then fashioned a mathematical model. It calculated that these volcanoes went from dormant to active in just a few months.

The bottom line is that other supposedly dormant volcanoes can come back to life in a few months, they said. Generally volcanoes emit small earthquakes as fresh magma begins to enter from below the solidified chamber of the volcano.

That fact allows scientists to measure the time between the first arrival of hot magma and the first eruption.

The work of the two scientists is expected to play a role in volcano disaster planning.

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