A satellite’s view of a deadly 2019 eruption could improve volcano monitoring

On December 9, 2019, a cloud of steam and volcanic gases blasted out of New Zealand’s Whakaari, or White Island, volcano. Relative to eruptions at other volcanoes, the explosion was small. But it claimed the lives of 22 people and injured another 25, many of whom suffered severe burns.

Now, using high-resolution satellite data and computer algorithms, scientists have revealed how gases released by the volcano subtly changed before, during and after the 2019 eruption. Observing such small changes using satellites could greatly improve volcano monitoring and help spot early warnings of eruptions, the researchers report June 18 in Science Advances.

Volcanologists typically use instruments on the ground to

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