(UWI RELEASE) – Yesterday marked a historic day for scientists monitoring the volcano. With the help of a Coast Guard vessel our Gas specialist, Dr. Thomas Christopher (UWI-SRC/MVO) made the first-ever successful measurements of sulphur dioxide (SO2) flux at La Soufriere.
Flux is a measurement of the mass (amount) of SO2 in the volcanic plume (a stream of gas vented by the volcano).
The presence of SO2 tells us fresh magma from a deeper source is being degassed and points to a continuing eruption. Measurements taken along St. Vincent’s west coast showed an average SO2 flux of 809 tonnes per day.
Generally, levels of SO2 flux decrease as eruptions subside. Averages usually fall below 100 tonnes per day. Previously, SO2 flux at La Soufriere was being estimated using satellite imagery.
Tracking volcanic gas output is an important volcano monitoring technique. It allows scientists to quickly build a database that can help them better understand an eruption.
Dr. Christopher intends to establish a permanent gas monitoring network to keep an eye (or nose maybe?) on La Soufriere.
The same way seismology and ground deformation can provide key information prior to and during an eruption, gas monitoring adds a third data gathering tool.
Volcanologists at La Soufriere now have 3 independent data sets which can give clues on what the volcano is doing. It also allows them to track what is happening now and what might happen in the future.