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Satellite data yield new understanding of how Galapagos volcanoes are formed and may erupt in the future

24 October 2013

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The chance transit of a satellite over the April 2009 eruption of Fernandina volcano - the most active in South America's famed Galapagos archipelago - has revealed for the first time the mechanism behind the characteristic pattern of eruptive fissures on the island chain's volcanoes, according to a new study by University of Miami (UM) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists.

Their model not only sheds light on how Galapagos volcanoes grow, which has been a subject of debate since Darwin's time, but may also help in forecasting the locations of future eruptions, adding to the vast scientific knowledge acquired by study of this iconic island chain.

In the study, Marco Bagnardi, a doctoral candidate at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) and visiting scientist at USGS' Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, analysed surface deformations on Fernandina from European Space Agency (ESA) ENVISAT satellite images acquired just two hours before the 2009 eruption. He sought to explain why Hawaiian and Galapagos volcanoes, while similar in some respects, show different eruptive patterns.

Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS)

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