Dr Teresa Ubide

University of Queensland
Research Field: Igneous Petrology, Volcanology, Geochemistry

In Volcanology, as in other Natural Sciences, we use the past as key to the future. Understanding the processes that have triggered the onset of eruptions in highly active volcanoes is key to improve volcano monitoring activities and predict future eruptions.
We have developed a novel laser technology that makes it possible to read volcanic histories on deep crystals carried to the surface by erupting magmas. The compositional information obtained by this method can be used to determine the incubation depths of previous eruptions and the warning times prior to eruption.
We have applied our method to samples from the largest and most active volcano in Europe: Mt Etna (Sicily, Italy). Our data indicate that the increase in volcanic activity in the past decades is related to magma intrusion at around 10 km depth. We have calculated typical time windows between deep intrusion and volcanic eruption of only 2 weeks! This means that emergency planning needs to act promptly under circumstances of deep unrest.
Our innovative approach can be applied to other active volcanoes world-wide and help to better understand the triggers of eruptions in densely populated and visited regions, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.