Friday, September 22, 2006

Can crystals help monitor volcanoes?

Molten rock forms crystals and heats up when it rises in a volcano, a team of Oregon and British researchers has discovered. The finding about a basic volcanic process eventually could help scientists in monitoring Mount St. Helens and similar explosive volcanoes in the Cascades and elsewhere.

The scientists have found that magma's temperature -- already around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit -- rises by as much as 200 degrees Fahrenheit when it crystallizes while ascending from deep beneath the surface.

The finding is surprising because crystals usually form when a liquid cools.
Katharine Cashman of the University of Oregon and Jon Blundy and Madeleine Humphreys of the University of Bristol say their study could lead to better models that could help scientists predict how a restless volcano will behave.

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