Team Number: 052
School Name: Rio Rancho Mid- High
Area of Science: Earth and Space Sciences
Project Title: Modeling Volcanic Eruptions

Problem Definition:

The goal of this project is to predict the rate at which lava will flow based on some vital characteristics such as the viscosity of the lava, the CO2 emitted prior to an eruption and the dome elevation at the time of eruption. Historical data will be used in conjunction with recent satellite readings to create a simulation model using Starlogo. Our team decided to look at the damage that is caused by the eruption of volcanoes because many people in the world live with in reach of the lava from the eruptions. In the twentieth century volcanic eruptions took about 80,000 lives (McGuire.12/13/04). The economy was not greatly affected, however the most costly eruption was the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, which cost almost 1 billion dollars (McGuire.12/13/04). As more was learned about the volcanic eruptions the main focus is going to be the viscosity of the magma. Viscosity is the property of a material to resist flow, which is measured in poise.

Plan of action:

Our first job is to create a model of a single volcanic eruption. This will require that we find research information and historical data on gas production and ground elevation related to volcanic events. We will create our program in star logo using sliders for CO2, ground movement and later on human population size and exit roads. If we can get our model to accurately represent the size of an eruption then we can relate that to how many people in the area would be able to successfully escape from the destruction.

Problem Solution:

In order to complete this project, several critical steps must be taken; first research must be done in order to develop an algorithm.

Progress to date:

We have learned some of the information we need to know about volcanoes. We have found many articles of information on past volcanic events, and example would be “Historical Eruptions of Kilauea Volcano,” by Ken Rubin

Expected results:

Our Program will probably use differential equations to show the movement of lava. We hope to show the effect of different density acting differently under gravity and forces due to internal friction (viscosity). We will start out just assuming that the flow is down a smooth straight pipe this shall simplify the equation and we hope to as complexity as time allows.

Citations Huppert, Herbert. Going with the flow. May 2002. Plus Magazine...Living Mathematics. 1/10/05 .
McGuire, Bill. Benfield Hazard Research Centre. Benfield Hazard Research Centre. 12/13/04
Passey, Simon. Viscosity. Oxford Brookes University. 12/13/04
Thomas, Rachel. When Will they blow?. 10/18/04 Plus Magazine...Living Mathematics. 1/10/05 .
Rubin, Ken. Historical Eruptions of Kilauea Volcano. 7/19/1998 Hawaii Center for Volcanology. 12/13/04 .
team members:
  • John Bell

  • Natalie Stovall

  • Nick Vigil

  • Teacher Sponsor Debra Loftin
    Team Mentor: Nick Benett