How Earthquakes Might Trigger Faraway Volcanoes

There are several schools of thought about the relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes. Scientists have long thought that there is a connection between the occurrence of high magnitude earthquakes and distant volcanic eruptions. Using scientific notebook charting and recording of various events, these teams are coming closer and closer to determining the relation and likelihood of such a situation.

For many, the thought of an earthquake occurring in one month and causing a volcanic erupting several months later miles away seems farfetched, but for many scientists in several different organizations this is a line of thought that deserves intense research.


Mount Aso in Japan

Mount Aso, located in Japan, began emitting plumes of smoke indicating a small eruption just two days after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake 42 kilometers away. Long before this earthquake, Mount Aso had experienced much larger eruptions, but is it possible that this small eruption was triggered by the earthquake? Scientists say yes, but there is still a great deal of research that must be performed to accurately predict eruptions based on earthquakes.

How It Works

Essentially, earthquakes and volcanoes tend to occur in similar time frames simply because both occur at the level of tectonic plates. Often individual eruptions are preceded by minuscule tremors directly underneath. This is considered to be movement of the magma through underground chambers.

This “earthquake” action is an early warning signal of volcanic eruption that has been monitored by geoscientists, but is not what one would call a major earthquake. However, the presence of seismic activity far from the volcanic center being a preceding event is one that scientists are still working on.

Many times throughout history there have been large earthquakes followed by small eruptions at a location far from the epicenter of the earthquake. When you consider the intricate layering and movements of tectonic plates all around the Earth, it is entirely possible that a large disruption in one area would cause a corresponding eruption in another area.

Volcanologists have proposed that the sloshing of the bubbly magma underneath the volcanoes caused by faraway large seismic activity is what creates the eruption. This theory makes perfect sense; however, scientists have as yet been unable to accurately use this theory to predict eruptions, despite using laboratory research, magma chambers, and earthquake shockwaves.

In situations like this, nature is in charge, and scientists are simply able to record and analyze activity in order to seek a resolution. While knowing of a relationship between earthquakes and volcanic eruptions would help in predicting volcanic events, it would not enable anyone to prevent either from happening.

Thanks to detailed scientific notebooks and shared research, scientists are able to record and analyze happenings all over the world and determine which seismic events correlate with which volcanic eruptions. Because the earthquakes cause deep tremors in the plates that hold the Earth together, it may take several days or even months for those tremors to travel and slosh the magma underneath a volcano. This makes researching and finding correlations more of a challenge for scientists in the future.

In time, as more research is done related to this topic, scientists will have more concrete findings about the correlation between volcanoes and earthquakes.


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