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Great Timing, Supercomputer Upgrade Leads to Successful Forecast of Volcanic Eruption

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A lava flow that followed the June 2018 eruption of the Sierra Negra volcano in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Credit: Galapagos Park

A multi-institutional team of scientists led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) successfully predicted the June 2018 Sierra Negra volcanic eruption on Ecuador's Galapagos Islands with a forecasting modeling program.

The researchers used Sierra Negra as a test case for their high-performance computing upgrade, which ran on UIUC's Blue Waters and iForge supercomputers.

During the winter break of 2017-2018, UIUC's Patricia Gregg and colleagues ran the Sierra Negra data through the new model, completing the run in January 2018.

Gregg said the model anticipated magma instability setting in sometime between June 25 and July 5, possibly leading to mechanical failure and eruption; the volcano erupted on June 26.

Said former UIUC graduate student Yan Zhan, "The advantage of this upgraded model is its ability to constantly assimilate multidisciplinary, real-time data, and process it rapidly to provide a daily forecast, similar to weather forecasting."

From University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign News Bureau
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