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Earth and space sciences - Term Paper Example

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Topic: Deadliest Volcanoes Length: 52 minutes, 45 seconds Distributed by: Corporation for Public Broadcasting (NOVA) The planet Earth, while appearing stationary to those on the surface, is teeming with motion underneath. Made up of what is known as tectonic plates, the surface of Earth actually lies atop jagged edges of ever expanding and contracting surfaces…
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Earth and space sciences
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Download file to see previous pages Though volcanoes are now known to be works of the Earth and its movements, and not of long-ago worshipped deities, their awesome power of destruction and even fiery beauty is still regarded with reverence by some, as much today as it was thousands of years ago. What is different, however, is that scientists now have the means and research to predict whether or not eruptions may occur. In the documentary Deadliest Volcanoes, several new research methods are explored, from the simplicity of a new generation of Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) and their accompanying earth-bound sensors, to the testing of gases and water, to the harnessing of cosmic rays and drilling that goes deep below the surfaces of the planet. Alongside learning about these methods, viewers are invited on a fascinating trip to inspect some of the best and lesser-known volcanoes of the Earth. In Iceland, new generations of sensors are being explored by scientist Sigrun Hreinsdottir on the volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Though volcanoes throughout the world are routinely tracked by means of GPS as well as seismometers, the aim of the new sensors is to track the flow of magma deep underground via movements of the surface of the Earth. The theory that was tested was that magma, in flowing into a volcano, will force the surface above it to move outward, thus allowing for predictions as to the size and the force of the eruption. The new GPS sensors that have been installed to help with these predictions are so sensitive that they can measure the movement of the earth to an eighth of an inch, according to Deadliest Volcanoes. This theory was put into action when, in March 2010, though the sensors moved only centimeters a day, all sensors began to move outward from the known central crater in the volcano Eyjafjallajokull. By March 4, all sensors were showing uniform outward-motion movements, and on March 20, 2010, the volcano erupted. Contrary to movie-going belief, however, the eruption was not over quickly. The previous time that Eyjafjallajokull had erupted, prior to 2010, it lasted from 1821 to 1823, a full two years (Hendry). The main difference is that for this eruption, with the work of Ms. Hreinsdottir, it was able to be predicted, and a scientific theory was proved in regards to volcanoes along with the behavior of the underground magma within them, without any loss of life. Another new method of predicting eruptions involves harnessing the result of cosmic rays, or muons. In employing this method, detectors are used that will collect muons entering the atmosphere of the Earth and passing through the solid-rock formations of the volcanoes. Developed by Hiroyuki Tanaka of the University of Tokyo, the basics of his theory state that in using the muons, the density of the volcano, as well as subterranean imaging of what lies underneath the part above the surface, can provide a viable means of mapping and measuring what lies underneath, unseen to the naked eye. This method was hoped to be especially useful when dealing with soft-crust or thin-crust areas of a volcano that cannot be reached easily by other means such as climbing or rappelling, or when conditions made it ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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