Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Out in the field : Volcanic gas-drive

Today i got to be driver for Agnes Mazot, volcanic Gas Geochemist at GNS in Wairakei, while she completed a volcanic gas-drive for our active Tongariro volcano / Te Maari crater.

For volcano monitoring we measure three gases in total: Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) we usually do this (for White Island and Ruapehu) by plane or permanent instrument MiniDOAS (you can read about it here). These gases are important as they can tell our scientists what is happening in the volcano.

Today we were looking at SO2  to get this you need to fly under the plume made by the volcano. However, with Te Maari crater its hard to do this as you can't fly that low due to the terrain, and you would then miss the important part of the plume. So instead our scientists have been loading the equipment up in a corolla and driving beside the volcano and under the plume.

We use a piece of equipment called COSPEC to measure the SO2 it gets secured in the car with a section sticking out of the window that looks up into the plume where it then measures the absorption of UV light by SO2

All strapped in

Interesting view!(it has a mirror attached so it views the sky)

FLYSPEC strapped on

For this trip we also had another piece of equipment called FLYSPEC (this a newer version of the COSPEC) Agnes is testing this before she travels to Vanuatu at the end of the month to teach the local scientists how to use it and then it will be used on Tanna island to help them monitor Mt Yasur volcano. The FLYSPEC is a lot smaller than its older 'big blue' model and got to sit on the roof of the car.

I actually visited this volcano in Feb, you can read about my volcano adventure here.  

After everything was strapped on Agnus turned the instruments on and got her laptop up and  running, data would come through and she could then calibrate the COSPEC and see exactly when we were driving right under the plume. We drove a transect 8 times so we could get good concentration of data, she then goes back to the office and looks at the data we gathered and gets a good idea of whats happening inside Tongariro.

Te Maari crater and its ever present plume

 Although we collect and analyse a lot of data, volcanoes are still a product of nature and can erupt with no warning at all!

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