Fumaroles are openings in the earth’s surface that emit steam and volcanic gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. They can occur as holes, cracks, or fissures near active volcanoes or in areas where magma has risen into the earth’s crust without erupting. A fumarole can vent for centuries or quickly go extinct, depending on the longevity of its heat source.
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- Fumaroles are openings in the earth’s surface that emit steam and volcanic gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. They can occur as holes, cracks, or fissures near active volcanoes or in areas where magma has risen into the earth’s crust without erupting. A fumarole can vent for centuries or quickly go extinct, depending on the longevity of its heat source.
- Fumarole comes from the Latin word fumus, which means smoke. The word origin is a bit misleading because fumaroles do not emit smoke.
Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:
- Fumaroles provide a window inside a volcano. They often are the best place for scientists to collect volcanic gases. Monitoring changes in the emission rate, temperature, and composition of volcanic gases can help scientists detect the movement of magma in a volcano. This information, combined with other types of monitoring, can help scientists forecast whether or not an eruption is likely and its explosive power. Accurate forecasting can provide critical time for residents and emergency managers to prepare and to warn pilots about volcanic clouds that can damage jet engines.
- USGS scientists monitor gas venting from fumaroles through direct sampling in the field, by airborne sensors, or by satellite-based sensors. See Monitoring Volcanic Gases http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/activity/methods/gas/index.php/
- To learn how a famous volcano gives clues, see: Volcanic Gas Monitoring at Mount St. Helens http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/st_helens/st_helens_monitoring_104.html
- Fumaroles can be dangerous. They can suddenly and unpredictably vent deadly gases and water vapor at temperatures well above the boiling point for water at the earth’s surface. They can emit suffocating levels of carbon dioxide and acidic sulfide or chloride gas. See: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/index.php/
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