A still taken from a tourist boat when Whakaari/White Island erupted in December 2019. 

According to Dr. Ian Main, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics can be used to detect patterns in seismic signals that may indicate an imminent volcanic eruption.

Dr. Main stated, “Volcanoes give off signals before they erupt, and these signals are detectable in the form of seismic waves. By analyzing these waves using AI and machine learning techniques, we can identify patterns that may be missed by the human eye.”

Dr. Main’s team has been working with the New Zealand research institute GNS Science to apply AI to seismic data collected from Mount Ruapehu, a volcano located on New Zealand’s North Island.

According to Dr. Martin Reyners, a volcanologist at GNS Science, “The application of AI and machine learning to volcano monitoring has the potential to significantly improve our ability to detect signs of an impending eruption. This could potentially save lives and reduce the impact on communities living near volcanoes.”

Dr. Reyners added that while the technology is promising, there is still a need for human expertise in interpreting the data. “AI is a tool that can assist with volcano monitoring, but it cannot replace the expertise of trained volcanologists who understand the context and complexities of each individual volcano,” he said.

The collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and GNS Science is part of a broader effort to use AI and data analytics to improve disaster response and preparedness. By applying these technologies to the monitoring of volcanoes, scientists hope to provide earlier warnings of eruptions and reduce the risk to human life.

By The Impactlab