New Zealand volcanologist joins international team to research Bagana’s plume with drones.

New Zealand volcanologist joins international team to research Bagana’s plume with drones.


I’m just back from Bougainville Island in
Papua New Guinea, where we were trying to measure for the first time the gas
emissions from Bagana volcano, which is one of the biggest
emitters of volcanic gas on earth. It was a bit of a mission to get there,
it took about three flights to get to the island of Bougainville to the town of Buka and
then four hour boat ride around the coast. Once there it was about two sets of three hour walks to get to our base station in the lovely town Wakovi. I was with a team most of it entirely from the UK, except for me here from Victoria University in Wellington. My particular job was to measure the flux of sulphur
dioxide using a flying differential optical absorption spectrometer. Right
here micro DOAS unit mounted onto a hexacopter and this uses the optical
principles of sulphur dioxide which absorbs ultraviolet light. Fly the
instrument just below the plume as close as we can to it and measure how the
sun’s light is absorbed by the gas. Bagana didn’t give up her secrets easily,
over the last decade it has been reported from satellite observations to
be in the top 10 gas emitters on earth but in fact it was a bit quieter than that. All our instruments picked up something about an order of magnitude lower and it just opens up a whole bunch of questions about how active is Bagana really. I’m so pleased to see that after all his hard work, Ian’s trip to Bagana was so successful. As he mentioned there was some really surprising results and it’ll be very interesting to see how his next trip to White Island goes and whether they are repeated or if he gets a new set of information. White Island is a very active volcano it can throw out some quite nasty and toxic gases. So the more we know about
the volcano the better, the way it operates and maybe we can be even more
prepared for its next eruption. Some of the work we’re going to be able to do at
white island is it’s going to go beyond the scientific objectives that we had at Bagana. At Bagana the volcano was so remote and so
inaccessible that just getting even the slightest taste of the chemistry of that
plume is a major achievement. Now White Island is more accessible so we can push
our scientific goals farther. We can get at some really detailed chemistry, a look at the really detailed way that chemical reactions work in a very strong plume from an accessible volcano.

Eugene Islam

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