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June 21, 2021

Rabaul Volcano Observatory Receives Assistance from US Geological Survey-USAID Volcano Disaster Team

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By Lillian Sopera Keneqa – EMTV News, Port Moresby

Two volcano experts, Dr. Christoph Kern and Cynthia Werner arrived in Rabaul, on June 24 2019, with an initial plan to assist the Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) in installing gas-monitoring instrumentation on Ulawun volcano. However, their mission was diverted when Mt. Ulawun volcano erupted on June 26, 2019.

They spent the next several days working at the Observatory to assist the local volcanologists in their monitoring efforts of the ongoing activity at Mt. Ulawun.

When the Mt. Ulawun volcanic activity subsided, the team travelled to West New Britain Province, where they assisted RVO staff in preparing aerial gas and photogrammetry surveys of the volcano.

The team moved forward in staging a set up zone in Bialla, 50 km southwest of Ulawun. From there they supported RVO engineers in installing a gas monitoring station at the Ulamona mission on the western edge of the volcanic structure.

Dr. Christoph Kern said, “Our plan is to install several Scanning Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometers (Scanning DOAS). These instruments measure the spectrum of sunlight as it passes through any gases emitted by the volcano.”

Some of these gases, especially sulfur dioxide, slightly absorb certain parts of the sun’s spectrum. By measuring this absorption, the instruments monitor the emission rate of volcanic gases without having to be installed directly at the hazardous summit of the volcano.

“Since volcanic gases are often emitted in the air ahead of rising magma, our hope was that these measurements would provide RVO with additional information for eruption forecasting” Dr. Kern added.

The Volcano experts are with the US Geological Survey-USAID Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) and their final leg saw them conducting vital training for RVO staff on how to analyse and interpret data streaming back to the observatory from the new instrumentation at Ulamona.

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