Hundreds of volcanoes exist in the United States. Most are considered dormant and haven’t erupted for more than 10,000 years. That doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t.
“Large volcanic eruptions in Indonesia put sulfur gasses or ash into the atmosphere that can change the climate,” he said. “When we see a large eruption, people tend to forget that it can have global consequences. It can even change agricultural yields, like how much corn is being produced in the Midwest.”
To learn more about the Earth’s crust and its formation, Michelfelder studies the magma that’s below the surface. He also investigates the triggers of volcanic eruptions.
“Even though the volcano may not look like a volcano anymore, and it may not be erupting currently, they are active and dangerous environments,” Michelfelder said. “Every volcano is its own animal, so to speak, and it behaves differently every time it erupts.”
Exploring a Chilean volcano
Michelfelder recently returned from a research trip to Chile. In May, he will take another team of students to Chile. The students will map the volcano and look at lava flow patterns.
They will also fly drones into the crater of the volcano.
“We’ll be flying drones around the volcano to get very detailed imagery on the volcanoes, which will be one of the first times this is done in South America,” he said. “It’s a new emerging field in volcanology that should give us a better understanding of how these systems behave and evolve.”