The chemical compositions and emission rates of volcanic gases carry important information about underground magmatic and hydrothermal conditions, with application in eruption forecasting. Volcanic plumes are also studied because of their impacts upon the atmosphere, climate and human health. Remote sensing techniques are being increasingly used in this field because they provide real-time data and can be applied at safe distances from the target, even throughout violent eruptive episodes. However, notwithstanding the many scientific insights into volcanic behaviour already achieved with these approaches, technological limitations have placed firm restrictions upon the utility of the acquired data. For instance, volcanic SO2 emission rate measurements are typically inaccurate (errors can be greater than 100%) and have poor time resolution (ca once per week). Volcanic gas geochemistry is currently being revolutionized by the recent implementation of a new generation of remote sensing tools, which are overcoming the above limitations and are providing degassing data of unprecedented quality. In this article, I review this field at this exciting point of transition, covering the techniques used and the insights thereby obtained, and I speculate upon the breakthroughs that are now tantalizingly close.
One contribution of 17 to a Triennial Issue ‘Astronomy and earth science’.
- © 2005 The Royal Society