Scientists are mixing water and homemade lava to understand the mechanism of volcanic eruptions better that cause sky-high explosions of molten debris and rocks. These ‘lava bombs’ are dangerous as it is proved by lava gushing incident of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. Beginning on April 30 and continuing for many months, the volcano unleashed lava bombs. One of them had hit a tour boat and injured 23 passengers. 700 homes were destroyed damages worth hundreds of billions of dollars were caused. Buffalo University scientists are making efforts to unveil the working of lava bombs so that property and lives can be saved if and when lava begins flowing. Researcher Ingo Sonder said that explosive lava is difficult to predict as some reactions are mild like ones at mid-ocean ridges or on ocean floor while others can be explosive.
Twelve experiments were conducted. The scientists melted volcanic rocks called basalt in furnaces which were then transferred to steel boxes. Streams of water were injected inside and its speed and depth of lava were varied. It was discovered that, streams having greatest speeds caused the biggest explosions. Also, more lava inside containers prior to mixing of water meant greater intensities of explosions. Geologist Ben van der Pluijm said that eruptions aren’t very severe if water is too much or too little and therefore the in-between needs to be understood.
The study was published on December 10 in a journal online. The findings are however said to be preliminary. More experiments are required for better understanding of the physics behind volcanic eruptions, say experts. Only then can lava bombs be forecasted with accuracy. Geologist Stanley Mertzman said that scientists need to be better at predicting not just tornadoes, but also explosions of lava bombs. The science behind water and magma reacting to cause eruptions in volcanoes require more studies, so that people living or working near active volcanoes can be warned beforehand.