The National Science Council’s Taiwan Volcano Observatory Datun (TVO), an observation and research center to monitor volcanic activity at Datun Mountain (大屯山) in Taipei, was officially launched at the Jingshan Nature Center yesterday.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Deputy Minister of the Interior Lin Tzu-ling (林慈玲) said that although geological research reports showed that the Datun volcano group had not erupted for a very long time, observations and analyses in the past decade have shown that they could be dormant active volcanoes.
The government therefore asked the council to set up the observatory to serve as a volcanic data integration platform, combining various pieces of information collected by the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Central Geological Survey, the Central Weather Bureau, Academia Sinica and other academic units, she said.
Lin Cheng-horng (林正洪), director of the Taiwan Volcano Observatory project and a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Earth Sciences, said that in the initial stage the observatory would monitor earthquakes, movements of the earth’s crust, earth temperature and fumarole images, as well as analyze geochemical aspects, including volcanic gas and water from hot springs.
The observatory can simulate the range of tephra — debris spewed out during a volcanic eruption — according to location and the direction of the wind during each season, he said.
Yang Tsan-yao (楊燦堯), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Department of Geosciences, said there are various levels of indicators for volcanic eruptions, such as changes in temperature, particles in water from hot springs and gas releases, that can be observed weeks or months before an eruption, as well as movement of the earth’s crust during the days before an eruption.
Lin said that Yang’s studies on helium isotopes in the fumarole and hot spring gases from the Datun volcano group indicated that 60 percent of the gas was derived from the earth’s core, suggesting that there may be a magma chamber under northern Taiwan.
They said evidence showed that the Datun volcano group probably last erupted between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago.
National Science Council Deputy Minister Chen Cheng-hong (陳正宏) said that while most people see volcanic eruptions as terrifying, they can also be objects of beauty, such as eruptions in Hawaii.
However, understanding the phenomenon before it occurs is important to avoid disaster.
Eruptions can be roughly predicted through an analysis of integrated data and can give enough of a warning so that precautionary actions can be taken, he said.
Six personnel will man the observatory on a daily basis and if they observe irregular patterns that indicate a possible eruption, a response task force would be assembled to assess the situation, Chen said.
Lin said they plan to add additional monitoring methods to improve the data, such as electromagnetic studies and satellite images.