Volcanoes Erupting All Over


The Living Force
Captured On Live Television - A Shiny Metallic Object Above The Erupting Volcano

Spanish social media speculated if it was a drone or a UFO.


Start at 1m 34s


The Living Force
FOTCM Member

INVOLCAN: "One of our teams was able to film today a real lava 'tsunami'. Impressive speed and overflow of the lava channel"#LaPalma

Incident: Ryanair B738 near Tenerife on Oct 11th 2021, engine trouble after flying through volcanic ashes
By Simon Hradecky, created Wednesday, Oct 13th 2021 14:00Z, last updated Friday, Oct 15th 2021 09:54Z
A Ryanair Boeing 737-800, registration EI-ENP performing flight FR-8179 from Tenerife South,CI (Spain) to Brussels Charleroi (Belgium), was climbing through about 6000 feet out of Tenerife's runway 07 when the crew turned right to avoid an ash cloud initially continuing the climb. Over the Island of Gran Canaria the aircraft turned back onto course to the north. Climbing through FL220 the crew stopped the climb however and decided to declare emergency and return to Tenerife due to problems with both engines. The aircraft entered a hold at FL120 in the clear south of Fuerteventura Island and subsequently landed safely on Tenerife South's runway 07 about 2 hours after departure.

Passengers reported a lot of emergency services were awaiting the aircraft. Apparently both engines had ingested ashes of the volcano Cumbre Vieja on La Palma Island about 75nm northwest of Tenerife South Airport.

A replacement Boeing 737-800 registration EI-EGD reached Charleroi with a delay of 6.5 hours.

The occurrence aircraft is still on the ground in Tenerife about 42 hours after landing back.

On Oct 15th 2021 Ryanair stated: "This Ryanair flight from Tenerife South to Brussels Charleroi (11 Oct) diverted back to Tenerife South airport due to a minor technical issue. There was no encounter with volcanic ash. After landing normally, passengers were transferred to another aircraft which departed from Tenerife South at 00.11am local time to Brussels Charleroi."

Ash Cloud Advisory for Oct 11th 2021 afternoon (Graphics: VAAC Volcanic Ash Advisory Center):


Ash Cloud Advisory for Oct 11th 2021 afternoon (Graphics: VAAC Volcanic Ash Advisory Center):



The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I know life must continue but!! the eruption is ongoing :umm: then again authorities, in the last 2 years or so, have shown little consideration for the people.

Schools in the south of La Palma prepare for the return to classrooms with the volcano more active than ever

The cleaning and organization works in the educational centers evicted by the volcano on La Palma continue to develop at a good pace with an eye on the reopening scheduled for next Wednesday, October 13 if the situation on the island remains as it is now.

"You clean and the next day everything is the same".
Meanwhile, the volcano continues to give no respite to the palmeros who since last September 19 say they are living "a real nightmare." The ash and pyroclastic debris emitted by the volcano are the main obstacle that stands between the classrooms and the 4,073 students who remain unable to attend classes.

Some of them, moreover, have been left without a home to return to after the tongue of lava carried away their homes and two of the schools located in the El Paso area.

In the last hours the situation has been marked by a worsening of the air quality due to the sulfur dioxide generated when the lava comes into contact with the sea water
. In addition, geographers have warned that seismic activity on the island has intensified, even recording a 4.3 earthquake, the strongest since the eruption began.

Translated with www.DeepL


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
A new eruptive mouth emerges on the southeast face, separated from the volcanic cone.
PEVOLCA has confirmed the appearance of a new eruptive mouth on the south face of the volcanic cone, after a sudden explosion. The mouth is being studied by scientists to evaluate its behavior.

At the moment, at 19:30 hours, it is known that the new mouth is releasing a lot of white smoke due to a "phreatomagmatic eruption", due to the presence of water in the area.

In addition, an intense column of pyroclasts and ash emission is perceived, due to the important quantity that accumulated in the area. No lava emission is perceived for the moment.

(... news in development)

Translated with deepl


FOTCM Member
I don't think it has been mentioned, but the Canaries volcanic committee Pevolca said a couple of days ago:
There is no prospect of the volcanic eruption in Spain's Canary Islands ending "in the short or medium term", experts said Wednesday after three-and-a-half weeks of activity.

At the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma island, "levels of sulphur dioxide don't currently lead us to think the end of the eruption will be in the short or medium term," said Maria Jose Blanco, spokesman for the Canaries' volcanologist group Pevolca.

Other experts have suggested the event could last for weeks or even months.
It was mentioned in another article that the sulphur levels once they come down to about 100 tons a day, is a sign that the volcano is getting close to ending.
At the beginning of the outbreaks, sulphur levels were between 6000-9000 tons per day. This changed a few days ago, when it went up to 17774 tons per day with no signs of letting off. This is also mentioned on the live feed from the volcano found here.


The Living Force
Cumbre Vieja Volcano
La Palma, Spain

19 Sep 2021 vs 14 Oct 2021

A stunning photo taken by abiansangil.com, demonstrating the vast changes of the main eruption cone (called Cabeza Volcano) at Cumbre Vieja, taken on first day of the eruption - 19 Sep 2021 - and then took another one from the same spot, showing the scene 3 weeks later, on 14 Oct 2021.



The Living Force
Aso Volcano
Island of Kyushu, Japan
13 Oct 2021


Aso with ash eruption

On the Japanese island of Kyushu, Aso-san is warming up and already started with scattered ash eruptions on Wednesday. Today, a VONA report was released, according to which ash was detected at 1500 m altitude. The data show that seismicity has increased in recent weeks, with more than 200 earthquakes recorded on some days. The tremor also increased slightly. So a stronger eruption phase could follow.

Source: Vulkane.net by Marc Szeglat

Link to Aso Webcam




The Living Force
Cumbre Vieja Volcano
La Palma, Spain

15+16 Oct 2021


The eruption at Cumbre Vieja is stable.

The earthquake activity continues to fluctuate. Yesterday, 110 tremors were registered, which is the third highest value since the beginning of the eruption. During the night there was a stronger swarm of 10 quakes, after which the earthquakes subsided. New values on inflation are not yet available. If they have increased further, the graph at the IGN will have to be rescaled.

Meanwhile, the lava field is up to 1700 metres wide and covers an area of 675 hectares. The amount of tephra is also considerable. No exact values are available, but in places several metres of it accumulated, as the video of the men clearing a roof near the volcano shows. Such extreme accumulations are localised and depend heavily on the wind. Nevertheless, ash and lapilli are becoming more and more of a problem.

Yesterday it was announced that 1000 soldiers will now be stationed on La Palma to support civil defence and police. A tanker has also arrived off the island. It is to be used to irrigate the plantations.

Source: Vulkane.net by Marc Szeglat

Source: by Manfred Betzwieser, lapalma1.net, 16 Oct 2021

New eruption mouth opened

To the southeast of the main cone, a new eruption mouth has opened, initially showing a large amount of water vapour emissions as well as ash and pyroclasts. A lot of white smoke, probably water vapour, was emitted during the opening phase. This could indicate the presence of an underground water pocket.


Thermographic image of Involcan showing the anomaly created by the new eruption mouth. Now it remains to be confirmed whether this is a lava flow or a pyroclastic fall. Both are bad, but only the day will bring certainty.

The meteorologists were wrong

The forecast was for wind in a westerly direction. During the night, a lot of ash and lapilli arrived on the east side of La Palma. Everything is covered with a black layer of ash and Mazo airport is closed. At the moment no efforts are being made to clean up the area as the fallout continues.

09.40 - Problem of an evacuee: In front of the Sombrero in the direction of Las Manchas are placed the Guardia Civil and the Protección Civil. The Guardia Civil is highly professional and psychologically trained, 24 hours on the spot.

The Protección Civil is the eye of the needle: the "protocol" dictates that the inhabitants of the area that is about to go down are only allowed to go to their property accompanied by the Protección Civil, and they are only allowed to stay there for 45 minutes to save what can be saved. And here's the thing: the Protección Civil only "works" from 10h30 to 17h00 - as a result, I was not "let in" yesterday at 17h00 and not this morning at 08h40 either. Yesterday evening the wrong information was given out that today access would be from 08h00.

The Guardia Civil tried to explain: the Protección guys work 10 hours a day and are volunteers, so they can't ask for more - I think it's an unparalleled scandal. The gentlemen of the Protección Civil behave not unlike a block warden (as you know it from reports as a late-born person).



The Living Force
FOTCM Member
There is a website, https://volcanoes.eurovolc.eu/#, operated by European institutions. They say:
Welcome to the European Catalogue of Volcanoes and Volcanic Areas
Eruption histories of active volcanoes in Europe and over-seas territories, their characteristics and hazards

The European Catalogue of Volcanoes and Volcanic Areas (ECV) is an interactive, web-based tool, containing detailed information on selected key volcanoes as well as the location of 72 active volcanoes within the monitoring territories of France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The Catalogue of Icelandic Volcanoes (CIV) created in the FUTUREVOLC project served as a template for the European Catalogue and information on active Icelandic volcanoes from the CIV is also available through the ECV.
Besides the one showed below, there are others located in various others, including those on Island. The ones in main land Spain and France have not been active for thousands of years.
For some volcanoes there is not much, just name and when it was last active, from others there are excellent pictures and detailed information, including different scenarios in case it erupts. The information for the latest eruption is in La Palma is not updated, so probably it is more helpful when trying to look into the past, or the future. The map is interactive. When you zoom in and click the spots with three letters, there is more information. Here is an example from one of the three letter spots, in this case TPV, Teide - Pico Veijo on Tenerife, located in the lower left corner of the map. When you click the arrows new information comes up.
The information about some of the volcanoes.png


FOTCM Member
At the beginning of the outbreaks, sulphur levels were between 6000-9000 tons per day. This changed a few days ago, when it went up to 17774 tons per day with no signs of letting off. This is also mentioned on the live feed from the volcano found here.
2 days later and sulphur levels have come down quite a lot. They are down to 2882 tons/day SO2 as can be seen on the live feed from TV Canarias. I am not sure much can be said from those numbers as they are likely to fluctuate greatly depending on what is happening deep down below the surface.

There was a lava tsunami yesterday which can be seen on this link. In the article where the link is, the Director of PEVOLCA is saying:
The director of the PEVOLCA (Emergency Plan Volcanic Canary islands) has reported that in spite of this overflow, the lava flows are losing strength, implying that their mobility on the ground has been reduced.
The article further says:
Since the beginning of the eruption of Cumbre Vieja and up-to-date of this Friday, the volcano has expelled more than 80 million cubic meters of lava, according to the measurements of Pevolca, destroyed buildings are 1.817 and the surface area covered by the lava flows of the volcano, 732,5 hectares.
Earthquake activity appears to have slowed down a little in overall activity. This is from the last 15 days as monitored by IGN:


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Interesting interview.

Volcanoes Talking
Bernard Chouet is a good listener. A volcano seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Team in Menlo, Park, California, Chouet spent years patiently lending an ear to strange seismic resonance coming from volcanoes. In time he learned how these sounds could signal a dangerous rise in pressure as magma welling up from deep within the Earth tried to find its way out; if it didn't, the volcano eventually blew.

Using a new theory about these so-called long-period events, Chouet has successfully predicted several eruptions, including that of Alaska's Redoubt volcano in 1989. In this interview conducted for "Volcano's Deadly Warning," Chouet describes how he came about developing his novel theory, and how well it's holding up to scrutiny both as a theory and as a useful tool in the field.
NOVA: What's so extraordinary about volcanoes?

Chouet: Volcanoes are quite spectacular, especially at night—the scenery, the mountains, the eruptions with all the magma coming out of the vent and the gases flowing. The feeling of a mountain being alive is an extraordinary discovery for someone who has always felt that the Earth was a solid piece of rock. Then you see these explosions and realize that the Earth is an active planet beyond anything you have ever dreamed about.

NOVA: Why was it so important to you to know how volcanoes work?

Chouet: It was a sense of exploration, a sense of discovery. My feeling after studying engineering for many years was that pretty much everything had been explored and discovered, and there was no room for great exploration around the Earth. I felt that one of the last interesting frontiers to study was natural phenomena. I realized that although volcanoes had been looked at for a long time and people had always been fascinated by them, they were relatively poorly understood, and this was a frontier that was worth exploring.

NOVA: Who were some of the early pioneers in trying to understand volcanoes?

Chouet: The Japanese seismologist Takeshi Minakami was one of the early people who got interested in making seismic measurements on volcanoes and finding out if he could interpret anything. The instrumentation he had was rather limited, so he was mostly interested in classifying events and establishing some kind of order in the richness of the observations. He ended up classifying seismic events based on the character of their signature as A-type and B-type events.

What's the difference between the two?

A-type events have a very characteristic signature that starts with an impulsive first arrival. These events occur when a volcano first comes alive again and magma is moving at depth. To make its way to the surface magma must create a plumbing system it can flow through. So the volcano is readjusting itself with lots of earthquakes. The A-type earthquake is the sound of rock breaking as the volcano readjusts itself to the magma movement.

B-type events include two different types of processes, one of which is just like the A-type earthquake—it's rock breaking. The other type of process that was buried somewhere in the definition of B-type events is the long-period event. Unlike the A-type event, which reflects the brittle failure of rock, the long-period event reflects the change in flow pattern of the fluid that is being pushed through cracks.

Once the plumbing system of the volcano is unobstructed, magma can flow freely through this plumbing, and A-type earthquakes cease to occur. In this situation, you'd see almost exclusively long-period events. What the long-period events are telling you then is how the magma is evolving as it comes closer and closer to the surface. The long-period event has a distinct signature marked by an emergent signal and then a slowly dying single dominant tone. This is the sound of fluid under pressure. This long-period event gives us the means to quantitatively measure that pressure and to track the pressurization in the volcano.

Can you give an analogy?
Chouet: Well, long-period signals in volcanoes and organ-pipe tones are very similar, for example. They are both representative of resonance phenomena. In an organ pipe, you have a column of air trapped between the walls of that cylinder, which is made of metal. Air is blown across a sharp edge at the bottom end of the pipe and sets up a standing wave in the pipe. There is a pressure variation along the pipe associated with the resonance of the air column in the pipe. You feel the pressure disturbance radiated from the open top of the pipe through the atmosphere to your ear.

In a volcano, a change in the flow pattern of the fluid in a crack may in a similar way trigger the acoustic resonance of the fluid, which applies a pressure variation on the crack surface. The resulting vibration of the crack wall is radiated into the solid in the form of seismic waves that propagate through the ground to the surface, where seismometers can pick them up.

Imagine what would happen if you were to place a cork on an organ pipe and seal all its openings and keep pumping air into a small hole at its base. If your pumping is brisk enough, you will induce resonance of the air filling the pipe with each pumping action, and each pumping action also raises the overall pressure in the pipe. If you keep pumping vigorously, you keep inducing resonance, and the pressure in the pipe keeps rising until eventually the cork blows out.

That's basically the process that goes on in volcanoes. You're seeing the pressure disturbances that are related to each pumping action, and then each long-period event is the result of one pumping action. The fluid filling the crack resonates and is trying to escape, but there's nowhere to go. The more pumping you do, the more pressurizing you have. Eventually you have a blow up.
NOVA: Apparently Minakami decided not to pursue the B-type signal. Why not?

Chouet: I think the answer is complexity. The B-type event looked very complex compared to the A-type. The A-type had a very short signature with a very sharp first arrival, so it looked like you could actually locate these things. The B-type, on the other hand, had this slowly emerging signal, which made it impossible to locate. In many cases it also displayed a very complex, long-lasting signature. In essence, Minakami concluded that this was something that we couldn't really address. At the time it was true—you couldn't really unravel all that complexity.

I also was trying to put things together in my head, and I thought trying to classify signatures was a little bit like classifying flowers. There are many types of flowers so you classify all these things, and then you have a feeling for the complexity and richness of nature. And that's fine, but if you do that on many different volcanoes—and there are quite a few volcanoes that are active at any one time—you're going to find that there's a very rich variety of seismic signatures on volcanoes. So you end up writing pages and pages and pages of signatures and classification, and people look at this and say, "Well, this is hopeless, because you've just got too much richness to deal with."

Chouet's solution

So how did you approach this problem?

Chouet: What I wanted to know was, what specific events may occur in a volcano that are a telltale sign that you are actually proceeding with pressurization and toward a possible eruption. To do that you have to understand what is going on. You have to be able to interpret that process, that evolution of the volcano. You have to interpret the signature.


“Suddenly you realize the volcano is speaking to you, and you understand the language.”

NOVA: You began trying to interpret those signals on Mt. St. Helens, right?

Yes. Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980. It blew up and carved a huge crater and dispersed a lot of material all over the countryside, wiped out forests, killed people. During the summer of 1981, a colleague and I deployed a seismometer inside the crater, right next to the base of the lava dome that was growing in the crater. While we were there we recorded a lot of B-type events. Being so close to the lava dome, the events were easier to locate, and we saw that we had a collection of A-type events and B-type events, and among the B-type events we had these peculiar signatures.

NOVA: What was peculiar about them?

Chouet: It stared you in the face. Anyone seeing these wiggles on paper would say, "Wow, this is obviously different." I remembered from when I was still in engineering school what happens in hydroelectric plants in the pipelines that carry the water when you suddenly shut the valve controlling the jet of water hitting the turbine blades. If you stop the water flow very quickly it generates a very high pressure right there at the valve. That pressure pulse reverberates in the pipeline, going back and forth between both ends of the pipeline. Each time the pressure pulse arrives back at the valve, it hits the surface of the valve with a huge hammer blow. This is called the water hammer. The water hammer effect is well known in that field as a resonance effect in the pipeline.

NOVA: So these long-period events are like water hammers, telling you what's going on with the magma, the liquid rock?

Chouet: Yes. The long-period events are important because they reflect a process that involves the fluid. You care about the fluid. You want to know where the fluid is, what it's doing, how much pressure it's under, whether the pressure is going up or down. By looking at these long-period events, we have this direct window into the fluid.
NOVA: How so?

Chouet: The key principle is pressure, and how fast you're pressurizing the volcanic edifice. This is essentially a pressure-cooker situation. The evidence of this pressurization comes through the long-period events, which are a manifestation of pressure accumulating and magmatic or hydrothermal fluids—mostly in the form of gases—trying to move in response to this excess pressure and trying to shoot through the available fractures and cracks that permeate the edifice.

A somewhat analagous situation is what happens when you boil water in a teakettle. When the water starts to boil, you have this singing steam coming out of the teakettle. In a way the volcano is also singing its song. Individual long-period events are little chirping sounds the volcano makes while pressurizing. When the long-period events occur in rapid succession, a sustained signal results. The volcano then is literally singing its tune. This is a siren song because the volcano is telling you, "I'm under pressure here. I'm going to blow at the top."

NOVA: It must be quite exciting to see this line on a paper and be able to infer so much from it.

Chouet: It's a defining moment, because suddenly you realize the volcano is speaking to you, and you understand the language. It's a little bit like learning a foreign language. At first, you're sort of floating there, and you don't understand, you're lost. And suddenly the language is understood with clarity, and it's a completely new perspective. The idea that the volcano is sending information and that you are able to interpret this information and characterize what the volcano is doing, that's like learning a new language.
Calling Redoubt

Alaska's Redoubt volcano "spoke" to you just before it blew in December 1989. Can you tell me that story?

Chouet: One of my colleagues asked if I would pass by his lab. He and his colleagues had some interesting activity from a volcano in Alaska that they wanted me to look at. They said, "We're seeing an increasingly rapid occurrence of these types of events. We don't know what they are. They seem to be very similar from event to event."

I looked at their records, and I could see that it had started just a short while ago. By the time we were looking, this activity was building up to one event per minute. And it was obvious that all these events were long-period events. I said, "I think you have an eruption on your hands."

This came out the blue for them, so they were a little taken aback, thinking he's a little bit cocky, maybe he's joking or something. They went back to their business, and I went back to my office. The next morning I poked my head into the lab and asked them, "Well, has this volcano erupted yet?" And they said, "For all we know, no, but if you're so sure, why don't you call the scientist in charge?"

I went to my office and called Tom Miller, who was the scientist in charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage. And Tom said, "I can't speak now because Redoubt is erupting!" I put the phone down and went to tell the guys in the lab, "Yeah, it's erupting right now." Suddenly I became part of the team. I had something to say that was of interest. They put me in the loop, and we started looking at the activity from there on.

Then on January 2, 1990, seismic activity changed from a linear increasing trend to very rapid acceleration. I told Tom Miller, "I think we're in a similar situation to where we were on December 14th, and we're going to have a major eruption on our hands within 24 hours or maybe two days from now." We went back and forth, because calling an eruption meant we would have to evacuate people. There was an oil terminal roughly 40 kilometers from Redoubt, and closing down the plant and evacuating people meant shutting down the operation, with the risk that the oil might freeze in the pipeline, so we needed to be sure of what we were saying.

Tom called these people from Anchorage, and they said, "Look, just a few hours ago we took a helicopter trip over that dome, and it's very quiet. Just a little wisp of steam coming out, it looks totally dead." We had to convince them that it wasn't as dead as they thought; underneath it was pressurizing.

I think the clincher was Tom faxing them a sheet of paper that showed the very rapid increase in long-period events. They realized something was shooting up to the sky and that maybe these people know what they're doing. So they evacuated the plant around 5 p.m. and at 7 p.m. the volcano blew up. They called Tom back and told him that they thought he was walking on water.

Making it universal

How did that make you feel after so many years of working, monk-like, on developing this model?

Chouet: It's a wonderful feeling, because you feel that you understand the language now—that the volcano is talking to you and you understand what the volcano is saying. You can actually track the whole thing. Of course, we don't know everything about volcanoes. It's going to take a long time to get to the point where we're in a position to make very accurate forecasts of the state of a volcano. But this was a very nice first step and a great feeling.

NOVA: Why just a first step? Having made a successful prediction at Redoubt, couldn't you just apply that to all volcanoes?

Chouet: You've seen it for one volcano and that's it. That's one volcano. You have to show that there's some universality and that this process is applicable to other volcanoes as well. So you move to a different type of volcano and try to understand this different type of volcano using the same kind of model and see if it works. And you discover that you understand its language. But then you realize by looking at other volcanoes that there are still aspects of the language that you don't get, so they don't quite fit within the model.

NOVA: Why not?

Chouet: Because there's infinitely more richness in nature than one can imagine. You always try to break it down to the components and simplify. Then you realize that maybe you've simplified too much, so you add a bit of complexity to the model. You don't want to add too much because if your model has too many parameters and too much complexity then it becomes as complicated to understand as it is to understand nature to start with.

So you try to keep your model as simple as possible and see how much you can explain. But you have to keep modifying it to see if you can explain these other volcanoes that fall outside the range. It's a process of continuous feedback between observation and theory and modeling. I find it quite exciting when volcanoes cannot be explained by the model, because it means there's additional information that is buried in there from which one can learn more. If all the volcanoes follow the behavior predicted by the model, then I'm out of a job. But fortunately, nature's rich enough so we can always keep adding to this whole thing.


“Within 20 years we should be able to make forecasts of volcanic activity that are at least as accurate as weather forecasts.”

NOVA: Yet you have had success at other volcanoes, right?
Chouet: It's a very happy circumstance when you can see that you have another volcano coming on line, so to speak, that produces the kind of behavior that you'd expect based on the model you have developed. Popocatepetl in Mexico is very good in that respect. It's working just like Redoubt and other volcanoes such as Galeras and Pinatubo were working. So it's not one volcano, one particular case you're talking about. It means you're talking about a kind of universal mechanism at play. The more volcanoes that produce this kind of behavior, the more you feel reinforced in your use of such a model.

NOVA: How close do you think you are to a universal mechanism?

Chouet: How close we are away depends on how many people work in the field. So far this is a relatively small field, so the work is done by a few individuals. I would imagine that if one received adequate financial support for the carefully designed, large-scale experiments that are required, within 20 years one should be able to resolve a lot of questions and perhaps be in a situation where one could start making forecasts of volcanic activity that could be at least as accurate as weather forecasts.

Convincing colleagues
NOVA: You spent years on your own working on this. What was that like?

Chouet: I was working pretty much alone but I was also standing on the shoulders of giants. I was borrowing from different fields and putting this into the context of my own idea of what was going on. So I was benefiting from the work of all these other people, and that's usually the case in science. Even though it took overall perhaps five or six years developing the model, more and more during that time I could actually recreate signatures out of the model that looked familiar and similar to what was observed in nature. That's when I thought, This ought to be right. It's so similar, and I can explain the richness, I can explain the duration, I can explain all these different frequencies.

You still have the work of convincing your peers. And that's hard, because people are set in their ways. Scientists are very conservative by nature. They have to be, because it takes a long time to develop theories. Once a theory has been accepted, it's been tested and tested over and over again. Then someone comes along with a new observation that doesn't fit the theory. This rocks the boat so people have to decide whether to throw away the theory or to modify it so that they don't have to re-invent the wheel.

NOVA: Why are scientists so reluctant to accept a new theory?

Chouet: For the same reason that people with different religions fight each other. Each one believes that they have a corner on the truth, and actually we don't have a corner on the truth. You have to take all these bits of information coming from many different disciplines and reconstruct something that makes sense.

Sometimes people are too narrowly focused on their discipline. You talk to some of the people making gas measurements, and they say, "Well, the only way you can find out about the volcano and where it's going is by measuring gases." In some cases the volcano is just sealed enough to allow this gas to accumulate at depth. So if you try to interpret that volcano on the basis of quantity of gas, you'd say, "Well, the volcano is muy tranquilo—very quiet, and this is a good day to go in the crater." But it would just be the opposite.

We're not working in a vacuum where we suddenly get plopped on this planet and say, "Nobody has thought about this before." You can be sure that almost any idea you have, people have thought about it before. Maybe they didn't write about it, maybe they didn't pursue it. It's very humbling, because in a sense there's nothing really to invent. There are only things to be perceived and interpreted. It's a question of awareness and saying, "Am I getting all the messages there? Am I putting all these pieces together in the proper way?" If you're not, you're not making progress.

NOVA: You've been quite modest in this interview. According to many people that we've spoken to, you have taken a bigger step forward than most, if not all. What do you feel about that?
Chouet: I feel that everyone comes around in this life blessed with some kind of gift: a gift of imagination, say, or a gift of artistic design. And you look at these people and say, "Wow, this is incredible what they did." Mozart made fantastic music, Rodin did fantastic sculptures, Einstein developed fantastic theories. What was great about these people is that they used this gift, and they left it for people to enjoy. I don't think they had to pretend that they were better than others. They were just excited by what they were doing, and they shared it with others.

I view what I do in a similar vein. I think that I have a gift which makes me a natural person to look at volcanoes and wonder about their inner workings. I'm blessed in that I've met people along the way who were very helpful in terms of providing the tools. I'm blessed with patience and persistence, because this is a long-term endeavor. I consider these to be gifts, and I would be remiss not to use them.

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