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Volcano study will lead to better prediction of eruptions

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Drone technology funded by New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC) is being used to study volcanic plumes in the Pacific.

A Victoria University of Wellington research study measures gases from inside volcanic plumes before they are exposed to the air, which will hopefully lead to better predictions of potential eruptions.

Special heavy-duty drones which can withstand high temperatures and acidic gases were developed for the study. The team tested the technology at White Island, off the country’s northeast coast.

The team has received additional funding to study volcanic plumes in the Melanesian area of the Pacific Ring of Fire, including Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

“There are a lot of people wanting to measure and study carbon dioxide coming out of volcanoes, but teams have been having difficulty getting the samples from right inside the plume,” team leader Ian Schipper said. “We are now sharing our system that directly takes bags of the gases and brings them back for analysis.”

EQC Director Resilience Strategy and Research Jo Horrocks says the technology and techniques are a big step in helping understand how volcanoes behave.