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Protecting Europe from volcanic disasters

  • The Bárðarbunga volcano began spouting lava on 31 August 2014 and didn’t stop until 27 February 2015, making this the largest lava eruption in Iceland since 1783. Researchers in the EU-funded FUTUREVOLC project were able to go in and test equipment and analysis methods to improve their ‘supersite’ monitoring system. Once complete, they will hand over the system to civil protection authorities to enable them to continue monitoring volcanic hazards. Image courtesy of FUTUREVOLC
  • The Bárðarbunga volcano released so much magma that the crater collapsed by approximately two cubic kilometres. Researchers such as Paavo Nikkola from FUTUREVOLC went on-site in September 2014, shortly after the eruption started, to begin monitoring the volcanic activity and to test some of the lava. Image courtesy of FUTUREVOLC
  • Volcanic ash disturbs air travel and causes risks to people, infrastructure, agriculture and livestock where it settles on the ground. Italy’s Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, poses a continuous risk for the one-million-inhabitant city of Catania, which contains a busy airport. Over the past decade alone, ash clouds have cost the region around EUR 10-20 million. Researcher in the EU-funded MED-SUV project are using high-tech monitoring systems to predict the next eruption in order to mitigate some of
  • The ESA’s ENVISAT satellite has been measuring the earth’s movement down to the nearest millimetre. The MED-SUV researchers collect this data, along with findings from the new Copernicus Sentinel-1A satellite, to see how volcanos ‘breathe’ – that is how the volcano’s surface swells and deflates as magma goes through the channels and fissures. They will pass these tools and findings to the local civil protection authorities so that they can continue to monitor volcanic activity. Image courtesy of ESA
  • Other researchers are trying to understand how large plumes of volcanic ash dissipate into the atmosphere. Dr Julia Eychenne at the University of Bristol, UK, used an electron microscope to study volcanic ash particles from the eruption of Mount St. Helens, US, on 18 May 1980 (as seen in the image). This eruption was key for the development of modern methods and tools to study explosive volcanos. Through a grant from the EU’s European Research Council, Dr Eychenne could use her knowledge to distinguish the

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