In an informative and entertaining Zoom video conference, geologist Lawrence Malinconico ’70 discussed volcanoes and volcanic eruptions, his area of expertise, during an Evening of Science for students.
There are 1,500 active volcanoes in the world with 27 currently erupting, Lawrence said. Every eruption is a bubble-burst of rapidly expanding gas beneath the crust of the earth. As the gases build up, they create pressure, much like shaking a soda bottle. The lava erupts from the earth when the pressure is released just like the eruption of liquid when the shaken bottle is opened, he explained.
Lawrence’s research focuses on the measurement of the gases released prior to, during, and immediately following a volcanic eruption and whether these measurements can be used to predict other volcanic eruptions. His earlier work helped establish gas monitoring as a routine precautionary procedure at volcanoes around the world.
Using stunning video and photography of the eruptions he witnessed over the years, Lawrence described tools that he helped to develop for measuring volcanic gases and spoke about the teams of students and researchers he worked with at Mt. Etna in Sicily, Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii, Mt. St. Helens in Washington state, and many other sites in Central and South America, Pakistan, and the Himalayas.
After his presentation, Lawrence answered questions from audience members about both the rewarding and the dangerous aspects of his work in, on, and around volcanoes. The event was hosted by Neil Chaudhary, head of the Loomis Chaffee Science Department.
An associate professor of geology at Lafayette College, Lawrence earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate from Dartmouth College.