Characterizing internal structures of active volcanoes remains an enigmatic issue in geosciences. Yet studies of such structures can greatly improve hazard assessments, helping scientists to better monitor seismic signatures, geodetic deformation, and gas emissions, data that can be used to improve models and forecasts of future eruptions.
Several passive seismic tomography experiments—which use travel times of seismic waves from natural earthquakes to image underground structures—have been conducted at active volcanoes (Hawaii's Kilauea, Washington's Mount St. Helens, Italy's Etna, and Japan's Unzen), but an inhomogeneous distribution of earthquakes compromises resolution. Further, if volcanic earthquakes are dominantly shallow at a given location, passive methods are limited to studying only shallow features. Thus, active source experiments—where seismic waves from the explosion of deliberately set charges are used to image below the surface—hold great potential to illuminate structures not readily seen through passive measures.