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Scientists: pair of Japanese volcanoes shared magma pool

Two Japanese volcanoes, Aira caldera and Kirishima, a more than 13 miles apart. But scientists are now realizing that the two are much more closely connected than anyone suspected.

Now, geologists have confirmed that the pair of volcanoes are connected by a vast subterranean network of magma.

Their first concrete evidence came during the 2011 eruption of Kirishima.

“We observed a radical change in the behavior of Aira before and after the eruption of its neighbor Kirishima,” said Dr. Elodie Brothelande, a researcher at the University of Miami. “The only way to explain this interaction is the existence of a connection between the two plumbing systems of the volcanoes at depth.”

Brothelande led the team of geoscientists from the university’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Florida International University as they analyzed data collected by 32 geopositional satellite stations located near the Japanese volcanoes.

Before Kirishima erupted, scientists studying Aira found that the caldera had stopped growing. They believed the volcano was at rest – until magma started flowing at Kirishima. Now, the GPS data has confirmed what experts suspected: the two volcanoes were connected to the same pool of magma, and Kirishima’s eruption interrupted the flow to Aira.

It also lends new evidence to a long-lived hypothesis, that the eruption of one volcano can affect other nearby volcanoes. Volcanic activity elsewhere in the world has long pointed to this, but until now, there was no solid proof of such a relationship between two or more volcanoes.

That means that when scientists begin observing sudden changes at one volcano, they should look for other changes nearby that could indicate an eruption.

“Eruption forecasting is crucial, especially in densely populated volcanic areas,” said Brothelande. “Now, we know that a change in behavior can be the direct consequence of the activity of its neighbor Kirishima.”

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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