How are volcanic gases measured?

Instruments to measure sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide can be mounted in aircraft to determine the quantity of gas being emitted on a daily basis. Such instruments can also be used in a ground-based mode. An instrument that detects carbon dioxide can be installed on a volcano and configured to send data continuously via radio to an observatory. Sulfur dioxide in volcanic clouds can also be measured from space with instruments aboard satellites.

Learn more:

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 6

Who monitors volcanic gases emitted by Kīlauea and how is it done??

The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) determines the amount and composition of gases emitted by Kīlauea Volcano. Changes in gas emissions can reveal important clues about the inner workings of a volcano, so they are measured on a regular basis. HVO scientists use both remote and direct sampling techniques to measure...

What gases are emitted by Kīlauea and other active volcanoes?

Ninety-nine percent of the gas molecules emitted during a volcanic eruption are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The remaining one percent is comprised of small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, and other minor gas species. Learn more at our website for Volcanic...

Why is it important to monitor volcanoes?

The United States and its territories contain 169 geologically active volcanoes, of which 54 volcanoes are a high threat or very high threat to public safety. Many of these volcanoes have erupted in the recent past and will erupt again in the foreseeable future. As populations increase, areas near volcanoes are being developed and aviation routes...

Lava sampling: Why do we do it?

Hot lava samples provide important information about what's going on in a volcano's magma chambers. We know from laboratory experiments that the more magnesium there is in magma, the hotter it is. Chemical analysis, therefore, provides the means not only to determine the crystallization history of lava but also to establish the temperature at...

Is it dangerous to work on volcanoes? What precautions do scientists take?

Volcanoes are inherently beautiful places where forces of nature combine to produce awesome events and spectacular landscapes. For volcanologists, they're FUN to work on! Safety is, however, always the primary concern because volcanoes can be dangerous places. USGS scientists try hard to understand the risk inherent in any situation, then train...

How can we tell when a volcano will erupt?

Most volcanoes provide warnings before an eruption. Magmatic eruptions involve the rise of magma toward the surface, which normally generates detectable earthquakes. It can also deform the ground surface and cause anomalous heat flow or changes in the temperature and chemistry of the groundwater and spring waters. Steam-blast eruptions, however,...
Filter Total Items: 4
Date published: June 21, 2018

Kīlauea Volcano Erupts

Today's update for June 21st, 2018 will be the last of the daily updates on this USGS feature story.  We encourage you to keep checking the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Kīlauea status website for daily activity updates. You can also visit the USGS Facebook page and the USGS Twitter feed as updates become available. For press inquiries, please email volcanomedia@usgs.gov.

Date published: May 18, 2017

EarthWord–Vog

Just like smog and fog, this EarthWord is not what you want to see while driving...

Date published: August 18, 2016

Living with Vog on an Active Volcano: New Resources

New informational products about the health hazards of volcanic air pollution known as “vog,” are available through a new interagency partnership.

Date published: January 27, 2012

Kilauea’s Volcanic Gases and Their Environmental Impacts

U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists Jeff Sutton and Tamar Elias will update information on Kīlauea Volcano’s gas emissions and associated environmental impacts.  Their presentation will be at the park’s Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium. Park entrance fees apply.

Filter Total Items: 17
For Sutton, It's Been A Gas!...
April 6, 2017

For Sutton, It's Been A Gas!

Jeff Sutton, who recently retired from the USGS, measured gas emissions during the March 2011 Kamoamoa fissure eruption on Kīlauea's East Rift Zone. Sutton, who served as a gas geochemist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory for 24 years, plans to continue working on Hawaiian volcanoes for a while longer as a USGS scientist emeritus.

High-tech instruments track volcanic gases at Kīlauea Volcano...
February 14, 2017

High-tech instruments track volcanic gases at Kīlauea

HVO's geochemist uses a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) instrument to track volcanic gases emitted from the lava lake with Halema‘uma‘u Crater. These measurements help detect changes in gas composition, which can provide insight into the inner workings of Kīlauea Volcano.

scientist with camera and spectrometer at the edge of smoking volcanic crater.
August 16, 2016

USGS HVO geochemist measuring gases released from Kīlauea Volcano

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geochemist measuring gases released from Kïlauea with a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, an instrument that detects gas compositions on the basis of absorbed infrared light. The data obtained from FTIR measurements have been useful in identifying the many components of volcanic-gas emissions, which provide information on the

...
White gas plume rising straight up from Kilauea Volcano summit with distant, bright, full moon.
August 16, 2016

Gas plume from Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, Kilauea Volcano

With stagnant winds present, the plume from Halema`uma`u Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano, stands straight up, showing off the distant, but bright, full moon.

Image: Collecting Gas Sample at a Fumarole
March 15, 2016

Collecting Gas Sample at a Fumarole

USGS geologist Deborah Bergfeld collects a gas sample from a superheated (hotter than the boiling point) fumarole in Little Hot Springs Valley at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Image: Collecting Gas at a Boiling Pool
March 15, 2016

Collecting Gas at a Boiling Pool

USGS geologist Laura Clor (right) and Rachel Teasdale (California State University – Chico, left) collect gas samples from a thermal feature at Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Image: Monitoring Volcanic Gases on Kilauea's East Rift Zone II
May 31, 2014

Monitoring Volcanic Gases on Kilauea's East Rift Zone II

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Geochemist Jeff Sutton and CSAV international volcanology students visit a continuous gas monitoring site on Kilauea's east rift zone during field studies portion of the summer training course. Instrumentation at this site measures ambient concentration of noxious sulfur dioxide gas released from the volcano's vents, along with

...
Image: Monitoring Volcanic Gases on Kilauea's East Rift Zone
May 31, 2014

Monitoring Volcanic Gases on Kilauea's East Rift Zone

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Geochemist Jeff Sutton and CSAV international volcanology students visit a continuous gas monitoring site on Kilauea's east rift zone during field studies portion of the summer training course. Instrumentation at this site measures ambient concentration of noxious sulfur dioxide gas released from the volcano's vents, along with meteorological

...
Image: Collecting Volcanic Gas Samples
July 9, 2011

Collecting Volcanic Gas Samples

Steven Ingebritsen (lower right, in blue hat) kneels in the warm mud as he collects samples of the gases emitted from the fumaroles on the north side of Crater Rock on Mount Hood. The samples are taken back to the laboratory for an analysis of the gases' chemical composition. By routinely collecting gas samples and comparing their composition to past measurements,

...
Image: Volcanic Gas Sampling
July 6, 2011

Volcanic Gas Sampling

Christoph Kern acquires ultraviolet images of volcanic gas over the dome and crater of Mount St. Helens. Although practically invisible to the human eye, sulfur dioxide absorbs ultraviolet light and appears dark in images captured by the equipment. Sulfur dioxide is typically emitted from magma as it approaches the surface, so surveys are conducted on a regular basis at

...
Measuring volcanic gases with a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) s...
February 11, 2011

Measuring volcanic gases with a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) s...

Since the opening of the Overlook vent in Halema‘uma‘u Crater in 2008, FTIR spectroscopy has been used to monitor summit eruptive-gas composition. Infrared energy emitted by the lava lake surface (top left) is absorbed by gases present in the path between the instrument and the lak surface. Absorption is proportional to the concentration of each type of gas that are

...
video thumbnail: Halema'uma'u Gas Plume Variations (November 17, 2008)
November 16, 2008

Halema'uma'u Gas Plume Variations (November 17, 2008)

The erupting vent within Halema'uma'u Crater at Kilauea's summit (see http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/timeline/ for links describing eruptive activity at the summit of Kilauea Volcano) typically produces a white to gray gas plume dominated by steam. While ashy plumes released by collapses and explosive events are

...
Attribution: