last August, myself and as Irish team of scientists from University College Dublin set off on an expedition to the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland.
Our mission was to place an array of seismometers along the flanks of Grimsvotn, an active volcano that sits at the edge of the glacier, and record the tremors and rumbles that occur deep below the glacial ice. The idea is that by listening closely to the “heartbeat” of Grimsvotn, the team might learn more about the inner workings of the volcano, and perhaps gain some useful information to help detect the early signs of an eruption.
The trip is part of Futurevolc, an international project funded by the European Commission to try to improve the monitoring and evaluation of volcanic hazards. Iceland is a rich source of such hazards, as the rest of Europe discovered in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano spewed out a giant ash cloud that brought massive disruption to air travel. The volcano being explored by the UCD team erupted a year after Eyjafjallajokull, but its ash cloud headed off east, sparing Europe, and thus making fewer headlines.
Prof Chris Bean is the UCD lead of the project in Ireland. I am collaborating with Prof Chris Bean this year in the making of a sound piece together with the Internationally acclaimed composer Susan Stenger.