• Study finds deep subterranean connection between two Japan volcanoes

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    Study finds deep subterranean connection between two Japan volcanoes

    Scientists use GPS data to uncover unusual behavior between distant

    University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

    IMAGE: Southern Japan on Feb. 3rd, 2011, showing the active cones of
    Kirishima (Shinmoedake) and Aira caldera (Sakurajima) volcanoes. While Kirishima is erupting very strongly, Aira's activity is relatively
    low.... view more

    Credit: NASA

    MIAMI--Scientists have confirmed for the first time that radical changes
    of one volcano in southern Japan was the direct result of an erupting
    volcano 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) away. The observations from the two volcanos--Aira caldera and Kirishima--show that the two were connected
    through a common subterranean magma source in the months leading up to
    the 2011 eruption of Kirishima.

    The Japanese cities of Kirishima and Kagoshima lie directly on the
    border of the Aira caldera, one of the most active, hazardous, and
    closely monitored volcanoes in southern Japan. Identifying how volcanoes interact is critical to determine if and how an eruption can influence
    the activity of a distant volcano or raise the threat of a new strong
    explosive event.

    The research team from the University of Miami's (UM) Rosenstiel School
    of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Florida International University
    analyzed deformation data from 32 permanent GPS stations in the region
    to identify the existence of a common magma reservoir that connected the
    two volcanoes.

    Leading up to the eruption of Kirishima, which is located in the densely-populated Kagoshima region, the Aira caldera stopped inflating,
    which experts took as a sign that the volcano was at rest. The results
    from this new study, however, indicated that the opposite was
    happening--the magma chamber inside Aira began to deflate temporarily
    while Kirishima was erupting and resumed shortly after the activity at Kirishima stopped.

    "We observed a radical change in the behavior of Aira before and after
    the eruption of its neighbor Kirishima," said Elodie Brothelande, a postdoctoral researcher at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of
    the study. "The only way to explain this interaction is the existence of
    a connection between the two plumbing systems of the volcanoes at depth."

    Prior to this new study, scientists had geological records of volcanoes erupting or collapsing at the same time, but this is the first example
    of an unambiguous connection between volcanoes that allowed scientists
    to study the underlying mechanisms involved. The findings confirm that volcanoes with no distinct connection at the surface can be part of a
    giant magmatic system at depth.

    "To what extend magmatic systems are connected is an important question
    in terms of the hazards," said Falk Amelung, professor of geophysics at
    the UM Rosenstiel School and coauthor of the study. "Is there a lot of
    magma underground and can one eruption trigger another volcano? Up until
    now there was little or no evidence of distinct connections."

    "Eruption forecasting is crucial, especially in densely populated
    volcanic areas," said Brothelande. "Now, we know that a change in
    behavior can be the direct consequence of the activity of its neighbor Kirishima."

    The findings also illustrate that large volcanic systems such as Aira
    caldera can respond to smaller eruptions at nearby volcanoes if fed from
    a common deep reservoir but not all the time, since magma pathways open
    and close periodically.

    "Now, we have to look whether this connnection is particular for these volcanoes in southeastern Japan or are widespread and occurr around the
    world," said Amelung.


    The study, titled "Geodetic evidence for interconnectivity between Aira
    and Kirishima magmatic systems, Japan," was published June 28 in the
    journal Scientific Reports. The coauthors include: Elodie Brothelande,
    Falk Amelung and Zhang Yunjun from the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine
    and Atmosheric Science and Shimon Wdowinski of Florida International University. The study was supported by NASA's Earth Surface and Interior Program (grant #NNX16AL19G).

    About the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School

    The University of Miami is one of the largest private research
    institutions in the southeastern United States. The University's mission
    is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding
    students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment
    for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940's, the Rosenstiel School
    of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world's
    premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to
    helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in
    the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the
    improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit: http://www.rsmas.miami.edu.

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