A new study by Hiroshima university uses satellite imagery to predict underwater volcano eruptions – using sea discolouration as a measurement of looming danger
Although predicting when a volcano will erupt can be difficult as each behaves differently, scientists are on the lookout for these tell-tale signs: heightened seismic activity, expansion of magma pools, increases in volcanic gas release, and temperature rises.
‘A new index called sea color’, explains Associate Professor Sakuno
The relationship between the chemical composition of discoloured seawater and volcanic activity has been known for a long time. Still, there have been very few quantitative studies that used remote sensing to explore it.
And among these few studies, only the reflectance pattern of discoloured seawater has been analysed in relation to underwater volcano eruptions.
Yuji Sakuno, remote sensing specialist and associate professor at Hiroshima University’s Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering, said: “This is an extremely challenging research result for predicting volcanic disasters that have frequently occurred in various parts of the world in recent years using a new index called sea color.
“I was the first in the world to propose the relationship between the sea color information obtained from satellites and the chemical composition around submarine volcanoes.”
Higher accuracy in predictions
Using the new indicator, Sakuno checked satellite data from January to December 2020 and was able to pick up signs of an incoming underwater volcano eruption in Nishinoshima Island approximately a month before it even started.
Associate Professor Sakuno said: “In the future, I would like to establish a system that can predict volcanic eruptions with higher accuracy in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Maritime Security Agency, which is monitoring submarine volcanoes, and related research.”