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To calibrate a new set of instruments for the study of volcanoes, researchers are turning their sights to a local power plant.

Last week, researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory worked with the Public Service Company of New Mexico to study emissions from the stacks of a power-generating station as a stand-in for a real volcano. The geologists and geochemists are developing a remote sensing system that uses spectrometry and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to analyze volcanic emissions, and Public Service's San Juan Generating Station releases many of the same constituent gases. Essentially, the researchers are trying to perfect techniques of detecting the presence and concentrations of such gases as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and hydrochloric acid in the vented discharges from active volcanoes.