BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University Assistant Professor Jackie Caplan-Auerbach will present "Song of the Volcano - Volcano monitoring in the 21st Century" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, at the Bellingham City Council chambers, second floor, Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St.
The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is offered as the second event of the annual Science and the UniverCity community science lecture series. It is sponsored by the WWU College of Sciences and Technology, the City of Bellingham, and, along with the other CST outreach programs, ‘Wizards at Western" and the "Leaders in Their Fields," is also sponsored in part by a grant from the Cherry Point BP refinery.
Every day, about a dozen volcanoes are erupting somewhere in the world and others are exhibiting signs of unrest. Many of those volcanoes are near population centers, so it is critical that scientists identify and decode signs of impending volcanic activity. These precursory signals include tiny earthquakes that occur within the volcano as magma begins to force its way to the surface. Recording these earthquakes is the first line of defense in monitoring, and the best view into the processes occurring within the volcano. Recent improvements in seismic instrumentation have allowed researchers to study an increasingly wide range of earthquake signals, from exceptionally low frequencies to signals within the range of human hearing.
This wide variety of sounds provides unprecedented views into the internal structure and behavior of the volcano. However, the shaking of the ground produced by earthquakes is only one noise produced by volcanoes; they also generate sounds in the atmosphere. Although these sounds fall below the range of human hearing, they can be detected by infrasonic pressure sensors deployed on the flank of the volcano. In recent years, the field of volcano seismoacoustics has dramatically expanded, allowing volcanologists to use the "song of the volcano" to probe its internal structure and eruptive behavior.
Caplan-Auerbach's doctoral research from the University of Hawai'i focused on the seismicity of the Lo`ihi seamount, an underwater volcano. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Alaska where she spent five years working for the Alaska Volcano Observatory, investigating volcanic processes in part by studying the sounds made by erupting volcanoes. She moved to Bellingham in December 2005 to begin teaching at WWU; her research still focuses on volcano seismology, and recently she has been investigating background seismicity at Mt. Baker.
"We are pleased again this year to have the support of the City in our efforts to bring programs on important topics in science and technology to the Bellingham community. Furthermore, to have endorsement of our efforts, in the form of support for this series by the BP Corporation, is especially gratifying," said Arlan Norman, dean of the College of Sciences and Technology. "This is a program for the community, a program that we hope really contributes to the general understanding of many important and exciting topics in today's complex world of scientific and technological advances."
The next entries in the "Science" series, "Blessing or Curse? Our Local Seals in Bellingham and the San Juan Islands," will be presented later this spring by WWU Biology professor Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez.Caplan-Auerbach's presentation will also be taped and rebroadcast on Bellingham BTV 10.