Seismic monitoring is the most widely used of the 'holy trinity' of volcano monitoring methods – seismic, deformation and geochemistry. Worldwide, almost all monitored volcanoes have some kind of seismic monitoring system and it is usually the first technique applied when scientists begin to monitor a volcano.

 

Why is seismic monitoring of volcanoes so popular?

  • Many volcanic eruptions are preceded by unusual seismic activity;
  • In its simplest form, a seismic monitoring system is relatively cheap to set up and operate;
  • There are numerous freely-available data analysis programs;
  • A single monitoring station can record data from several volcanoes at once;
  • It provides a continuous source of data, allowing rapid changes in a volcano to be monitored;
  • There is a large volume of scientific literature published on seismic monitoring data that can help scientists in their interpretation of seismic data.

Are there any problems with this method?

  • It is subject to potential interference from other sources of ground vibration such as wind and vehicles;
  • A poorly-chosen site can sometimes, because of the interference noted above, be almost useless for seismic monitoring;
  • Because it provides continuous, high-resolution information the volume of data collected (measured by the amount of computer disk space needed to store it) is more than 100 times that of the next most data-hungry method (continuous GPS measurements).
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