Volcanic mountains

ISS astronaut’s photo of Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand may help track volcanic activity

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took a picture of Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand, as reported by SciTechDaily. The photo offers a bird’s eye view of the mountain.

(Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)
WANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND – MARCH 18: Mount Ruapehu crater lake showing the path taken by the Lahar (lower left) after breaching the crater wall on Mount Ruapehu on March 18, 2007 in New Zealand National Park -Zealand. The lake level rose causing the crater rim to collapse to send the mudflow (Lahar) down the mountain.

Mount Ruapehu

Mount Ruapehu is a stratovolcano and is the highest mountain in the North Island. A stratovolcano is a conical volcano composed of layers of hardened lava, volcanic ash and pumice.

The photo shows Crater Lake which holds all the clues to what is happening in the volcano. Crater Lake is heated by a hydrothermal system that remains hot year-round and is highly acidic. Prolonged temperature spikes in the lake can be a sign of impending volcanic activity. You can see the pictures here.

Mount Ruapehu has been dormant since 2011, but recently started showing signs of unrest again as volcanologists began detecting moderate tremors in March 2022. They issued an alert for increased volcanic activity and took periodic lake temperature measurements and sulfur dioxide emission samples to track changes.

Meanwhile, volcanologists detected a magmatic intrusion beneath the volcano, which suggested that magma was slowly rising below the volcano, but it stopped. As a result, scientists have suggested that the eruption may have increased in the Crater Lake basin.

Recently, in July, temperatures and emissions dropped to a level sufficient to lower the Volcanic Alert Level.

Read also : Imminent eruption urges stay away from New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings volcano

Monitoring Mount Ruapehu

Mount Ruapehu sits high above sea level, but at present the high altitude is an obstacle for scientists who want to observe what is happening. Low-resolution satellite images aren’t enough to tell the team how deep the magma is or if there are signs of unrest in the volcano.

The volcano is one of the most frequently monitored volcanoes on the planet with satellite data, ground geodetic monitoring and other techniques.

On the other hand, the lake is unique because it is a closed body of water that only receives water from precipitation and snow, which allows scientists to measure the temperature of the hydrothermal system. It is also useful for measuring the emission of sulfur dioxide, which is the first sign of increased volcanic activity.

Volcanic activity can lead to pyroclastic flows, which are very dangerous. When a volcano becomes active and erupts, it can produce sudden and intense releases of ash, rock and gas. The gas and ash are propelled into the air, which then falls to the ground as the hot ash flows. All of this can lead to debris flows, mudslides and avalanches, which can damage transportation systems, buildings and the environment.

Photos taken by the ISS are useful for tracking volcanic activity and alerting people to potential risks.

Related article: WATCH: Massive volcanic eruption seen from space

This article belongs to Tech Times

Written by April Fowell

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