Galapagos: New 3D images reveal the underbelly and plumbing system of the most active volcano in the Galapagos Islands for the first time. A team of researchers based at the University of Rochester buried 15 seismometers — tools used to measure the velocity and direction of waves generated by earthquakes — beneath the Sierra Negra volcano, the largest and most active volcano in the Galapagos Islands, located roughly 575 miles (925 kilometers) off the coast of Ecuador. Seismic waves travel at different speeds depending on the type of material they pass through, so the researchers were able to use the data to differentiate fresh magma from cold crust beneath the volcano and create 3D images showing the location of different lava sources feeding the volcano.
The volcanoes of the Galapagos Islands are some of the most active volcanoes in the world, and have generated more than 50 eruptions in the last 200 years. The new images will help scientists understand what causes these eruptions, and potentially help researchers develop better volcano hazard assessments. "With a better understanding of what's beneath the volcanoes, we'll now be able to more accurately measure the underground activity. That should help us better anticipate earthquakes and eruptions, and mitigate the hazards associated with them,” said Cynthia Ebinger, study co-author of the University of Rochester.