Jun 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:38 AM EDT

Unusual Volcanic Rocks Lift Lid on Risks of Less-Studied Eruptions

May 24, 2019 09:44 AM EDT

Unusual Volcanic Rocks Lift Lid on Risks of Less-Studied Eruptions
(Photo : Ben Clarke)

Rare rocks found on a remote mountainside have alerted scientists to the dangers posed by a little-studied type of volcano. The scientists discovered the rocks in East Africa, and they claimed the rocks provide vital clues into the hazards associated with active volcanoes elsewhere.

Researchers indicated that the intense eruptions formed the volcanic remnants from Aluto in Ethiopia, and these eruptions could be far more dangerous than previously thought. The findings of the researchers offered fresh insight into the hazards posed by a type of volcanic activity known as a pumice cone eruption, which scientists, until the present, could barely understand.

In the previous research, it was suggested that eruptions which last took place on Aluto more than 2,000 years ago were quite small and presented a low risk to all but those living very near them.

The University of Edinburgh's researchers used a range of precise techniques to analyze the rocks and understand better the eruptions that formed them. The results of their study could build a clearer picture of the risks posed by these rare volcanoes, which are among the most common types found in East Africa. Other types of volcanoes are found in Iceland and on Mayor Island, New Zealand.

The composition of rocks is a thin layer of a volcanic glass surrounding a porous, foam-like interior. According to the research, this structure shows that the rocks were still hot and sticky when they hit the ground. These small, ultra-light rocks were found a long way from the volcano, suggesting they were carried in a hit jet of volcanic material known as an eruption column and fell from the sky.

Also, research claimed that during powerful eruptions, eruption columns formed, and collapse to form fast-moving avalanches of super-heated rock, ash, and gas. The team published the results of their findings, which the Natural Environment Research Council funded in Nature Communication. The research involved researchers from Addis Ababa and Wollega Universities in Ethiopia. It forms part of the collaborative RiftVolc project between the UK and Ethiopian universities.

Ben Clarke, a Ph.D. student of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said that a lot of people live on and around these volcanoes which also host valuable geothermal power infrastructure. The work of the researchers suggested that the future eruptions at these volcanoes have the potential to cause significant harm, further from the volcano than they previously thought. Persistent interdisciplinary research to understand and manage this risk is required to safeguard people and infrastructure in Ethiopia.

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