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Stromboli, The Volcano Helping To Predict When Others May Erupt

Stromboli, located in Sicily's Aeolian Islands, is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, attracting tourists for its pristine black sand beaches. Yet due to its characteristics, including its uniquely consistent and predictable eruptions, it has also become an international reference point in the study of explosive dynamics.

Photograph of the volcano of Stromboli, with ash rising high into the sky

June 17, 2020: The volcano of Stromboli

Maurizio Ripepe

Explosive volcanic eruptions can be so violent and sudden that they catch most monitoring networks by surprise. These phenomena pose not only a scientific challenge but a serious danger, especially for those volcanoes located in inhabited areas or visited by hordes of tourists.

Take the sudden eruptions of Mount Ontake in Japan in 2014 and White Island in New Zealand in 2019. Despite being constantly monitored, these volcanic eruptions resulted in more than 80 deaths among unsuspecting hikers.

One of the most famous explosive volcanoes in the world is Stromboli, located in the Aeolian Islands, off of Sicily. Its gentle yet spectacular explosions, which launch lava and incandescent fragments to several hundred meters in height, have been occurring at a nearly constant rate every 10-20 minutes for thousands of years.

This ongoing, moderate explosive activity is unique and allows for close observation of an erupting volcano. This is how Stromboli has become an international reference point in the study of explosive dynamics. Many of the technological innovations and methodologies commonly used in volcano observatories today were developed and/or calibrated on Stromboli.

Magmatic systems

Two exceptionally violent explosive events, which happened in July and August 2019, interrupted this moderate activity. They generated eruptive columns which were several kilometers high, as well as fires and tsunami waves, ultimately covering coastal villages with ash and rocks.

These violent explosions involved deep portions of the magmatic system (up to about seven kilometers in depth) and are, therefore, believed to have followed a dynamic process different from the regular activity.

The volcano 'deflates' due to the release of gases and lava fragments into the atmosphere.

The use of highly sensitive sensors capable of measuring angles of a few millionths of a degree has shown that these violent explosions are preceded by a weak but clear ground deformation.

The entire volcano begins to 'inflate' about ten minutes before the explosion, following an exponential trend due to the expansion of gases during the magma ascent in the feeding conduit. Then, during the explosion, the deformation reverses as the volcano 'deflates' due to the release of gases and lava fragments into the atmosphere.

Photograph of a group of people at dinner who look up to the distant Stromboli volcano, which is lit up with its own mini-eruptions

A group of people enjoying their dinner watch as the Stromboli volcano 'erupts'.

Top Italia/Facebook

Real-time alert system

The Experimental Geophysics Laboratory (Lgs) at the University of Florence, in collaboration with numerous researchers from other Italian and foreign universities, has analyzed thousands of data points collected over more than 15 years of research. This has allowed for the determination that the volcano deforms in an identical manner following inflation/deflation cycles with each explosion, from the weakest to the most violent.

The more violent the explosion, the greater the amplitude and duration of inflation, but its temporal pattern remains unchanged. This indicates that the explosive process always follows the same dynamics and allows for the distinction of ground deformations preceding eruptions from signals produced by other natural sources (atmospheric pressure, temperature, tides, rainfall, earthquakes, etc.).

This uniqueness of the deformation process has led to the development of the world's first real-time alert system for explosive volcanic eruptions.

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Not Just Paris! Mongolia Is Also Battling Bedbugs (And Cockroaches... And Centipedes...)

Public extermination services were halted during the pandemic. Residents have embraced cheaper DIY solutions — but there are risks.

Photo of a bed bug

A bed bug photographed in the Biology Institute at the Technical University (TU) in Dresden, Germany

Khorloo Khukhnokhoi

ERDENET, ORKHON PROVINCE, MONGOLIA — Oyuka dresses for domestic battle. Mask. Gloves. Hair shrouded under a black hood. A disposable white gown reminiscent of a surgeon. It’s 2 p.m. on a Tuesday; her husband is at work and their two young children are at school. She shoves the oven, freezer and washing machine away from the kitchen walls and grabs a lime-green spray can from behind the bathtub, where it’s out of the children’s reach. “Magic Cleaner,” the bottle says in Chinese. A pesticide.

Oyuka — who asked to be referred to only by her nickname, out of fear of being criticized by her neighbors — lives on the eighth floor of a 10-story building in Erdenet, Mongolia’s second-largest city, where towering apartments cram together like subway riders. Lots of people means lots of trash, which means lots and lots of bugs. Cockroaches. Bedbugs. Centipedes. And what Mongolians call black bugs, speck-like insects that Oyuka fears will bite her children and make them sick.

Over the past year, Oyuka started noticing them in corners, under furniture, on windowsills. She increased how often she sprayed Magic Cleaner, from occasionally to every three months — even though the smell makes her stomach lurch. “Because I don’t know any other good poison, I use this poison often,” she says.

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