Satellite predicts eruptions

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SCIENTISTS HAVE for the first time predicted a volcanic eruption from space in a development that promises to revolutionise the monitoring by satellite of impending natural disasters .

A team of geologists has used data from two orbiting satellites to detect the build up of heat underneath a Guatemalan volcano seven days before it erupted on 20 May sending ash over Guatemala City.

During the week before the eruption a computer monitoring the satellite data alerted scientists from the University of Hawaii to rising levels of heat radiation from the Pacaya volcano, about 20 miles from the city.

Luke Flynn, a volcanologist from the university, said it was the first time satellites had been used to watch the events leading up to a volcanic eruption. "We've never had a way to remotely monitor volcanoes for impending eruptions," he said.

Dr Flynn said the system can also be used to monitor forest fires. "We are simply providing a widely accessible tool to view eruptions and fires in real time."