Volcano Watch: Using water cannon experiments to improve understanding of volcanic blasts

USGS photo The experiment was completed in 2016 and included a setup to measure acoustic signals from human-made blasts which could improve our understanding and early detection of real volcanic eruptions. The upper left image shows a simple plastic soda-pop bottle being filled with super cold liquid nitrogen. The bottle is subsequently sealed with a cap and placed in the ambient water-filled barrel. The difference in temperatures between the bottle and barrel water causes a rapid discharge explosion (lower left image) which is recorded on a pressure sensor near the cannon. Each waveform (right) shows a different eruption experiment. The images were taken from video by Julian Thompson, formerly GNS Science.

The 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption in Washington State illustrated the hazards and impacts of lateral (ground-hugging) volcanic blasts on natural landscapes and human infrastructure. The eruption devastated hundreds of square miles and killed 57 people. In the more than forty years since, several additional laterally directed explosive eruptions have occurred world-wide.