For the first time, seismic signals that precede a volcanic eruption have been simulated and visualized in 3D under controlled pressure conditions in a laboratory. The ability to conduct such simulations will better equip municipal authorities in volcanic hot spots around the world in knowing when to alert people. Nearly 500 million people live near enough to the Earth's 600 active volcanoes to endure physical and economic harm should a serious eruption occur. An international research team conducted the experiments at the University of Toronto.

Scientists tested fracture properties of basalt rock from Mount Etna, the active volcano found on the island of Sicily in southern Italy, and were able to record the seismic signals that are routinely generated during earthquakes that occur before volcanic eruptions. The knowledge generated from investigation into rock fracturing also has direct application in a wide variety of areas, such as mining, construction of buildings and bridges, oil and gas exploration, and in earthquakes and other earth sciences phenomena.

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