NASA Satellites Monitor Icelandic Volcano

PASADENA, Calif., April 8 (UPI) — U.S. space agency scientists say they are closely monitoring the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland that was first detected by satellites.

NASA scientists said they are using the latest advances in satellite artificial intelligence to speed up estimates of the heat and volume of lava escaping from the volcano. The eruption began March 20.

Less than 24 hours after the satellites’ first observation, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said they were able to confirm the volcano was emitting more than one billion watts of energy — enough to power 40,000 passenger cars at the same time — and discharging more than six tons of lava per second.

Scientists said the rapid calculations of lava volume and location provided by new satellite “onboard autonomy” technology can help determine the likely direction of lava flows, while giving emergency managers advance warning to plan and deploy resources and carry out evacuations.

“There is concern that this eruption might precede another larger eruption at the Katla volcano nearby,” said Ashley Davies, lead scientist for NASA’s New Millennium Program-Space Technology 6 Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment. “If it does, we will be poised to provide imaging data of activity as the eruption evolves.”

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