By using forensic-style chemical analysis, researchers at the University of Bristol could find a direct connection between the deadly eruption of the Mount St. Helens in 1980 to crystal growth within its magma chamber, Science Daily reported.
Scientists then chemically analyzed the crystals. The results provided strong evidence for the existence of pulses of magma into a growing chamber within the volcano.
The findings also showed a peak in crystal growth in the months prior to the eruption, which correlated with increased seismicity and gas emissions.
“Such a correlation between crystal growth and volcanic seismicity has been long anticipated, but to see such clear evidence of this relationship is remarkable,” said Dr. Kate Saunders.
According to scientists, over 500 million people live near volcanoes that may erupt with no clear warning and cause widespread devastation.
Although most of the world’s volcanoes are constantly monitored for any changes in seismicity, it is still difficult for volcanologists to link observations at the surface to processes occurring underground.
Scientists have expressed hope that the new approach could help them to improve forecasting of future eruptions and to make more accurate timescale of pre-eruptive activities.
The study has been published in the journal Science.