18 May 2009
Predicting when a volcano will blow has to be one of the holy grails of geology. Geologists have got much better at this than they used to be by constantly monitoring active volcanoes and studying ancient ones to figure out how they work.
Dr Sue Loughlin of the British Geological Survey and former director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory - which monitors Soufrière Hills volcano - explains how so-called earthquake swarms underneath this volcano made eruptions much more predictable in the 1990s than they are now. Listen to a speeded up recording of the lava dome collapsing in 1997. Predicting how the volcano will behave these days is much trickier.
Click the play button above to listen now.
Dr Kathryn Goodenough, also from the British Geological Survey, studies rocks from ancient volcanic eruptions - including the extinct volcanoes of Glencoe and Edinburgh - to build up a picture of how volcanoes work.
Science writer and broadcaster Richard Hollingham visits Sue and Kathryn at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh to talk to them about their work.
Interesting? Spread the word using the 'share' menu on the top right.