Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sound technology may help predict eruptions

Predicting eruptions will become easier now that scientists are using technology to translate into sound waves the patterns in a volcano's behavior. The EU-funded "Enabling Grids for E-sciencE" (EGEE) and the "E-Infrastructure shared between Europe and Latin America" (EELA) projects, which already are investigating volcano sonification at Mount Etna in Sicily, are using the GÉANT2 and ALICE-RedCLARA networks to further extend this important study to include Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano.

The research project, which brings together experts from Europe and Latin America, digitally collects geophysical information on seismic movements before using data sonification to transform them into audible sound waves, which can then be "scored" as melodies. The resulting "music" is then analyzed for patterns of behavior and used to identify similarities in eruption dynamics and so predict future activity.

The software used for sonification was first developed by Domenico Vicinanza at the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) for use at Mount Etna, the tallest volcano in Europe. Following the initial work, Vicinanza and a team of scientists, led by Roberto Barbera from the University of Catania, are now collaborating with colleagues in Ecuador to study the Tungurahua volcano, transferring data across GÉANT2 to the ALICE-RedCLARA network using a transatlantic 622 Mbps connection.

The Ecuadorian National Research and Education Network (CEDIA) is responsible for the connection to the scientists based at Tungurahua itself."Through expanding this research to include Latin America's volcanoes, we are hopeful we can build on and further develop the extensive data and information we have already obtained from the studies at Mount Etna," said Barbera, technical coordinator of the EELA project.

"Data sonification can be considered the acoustic counterpart of data graphic visualisation and is key to expanding our knowledge of volcanic seismic patterns to gain a deeper understanding of volcanic activity, especially when this activity precedes eruptive phenomena." continued Vicinanza from CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory.

Dai Davies, general manager of DANTE, said: "This project is contributing new knowledge to volcanic research and we are delighted to be providing the networking support needed for the international exchange of scientific learning. The ability to be able to translate geophysical data into sound waves is not only exciting but could prove vital to predicting future eruptions, benefiting everyone in these regions."GÉANT2 is the world's most advanced research and education network and is co-funded by Europe's National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) and the European Commission.

Managed by research networking organization DANTE, it supports a community of more than 30 million users in Europe. The ALICE (America Latina Interconectada Con Europa) project was set up in 2003 to develop the RedCLARA network, which provides IP research network infrastructure within the Latin American region and toward Europe. Also managed by DANTE, it has four European and 19 Latin American partners, including the Latin American research networking association CLARA.EGEE operates a service Grid infrastructure, which is used to share computing and storage resources across more than 200 sites in 40 countries.

Running on top of the GÉANT2 network, it facilitates collaboration between researchers at the various institutions and geographical sites involved. EELA is EGEE's counterpart in Latin America, and creates a digital bridge between Grid infrastructures in both regions, utilizing the ALICE-RedCLARA infrastructure as the underlying network. EELA is run by a consortium of 21 partners from 10 countries (seven in Latin America and three in Europe).

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