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Toward Comprehensive Volcanic Carbon Budgets and Real-time Emission Monitoring

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Monday, August 30, 2010

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Florian M. Schwandner
Earth Observatory of Singapore

Volcanoes emit a large variety of gaseous compounds during both episodic eruptions and quiescent continuous degassing activity, from their vents and craters as well as their flanks. Carbon compounds include not only the most abundant of all volcanic gas species, CO2, but also a multitude of other compounds such as CH4, CO, hydrocarbons, CFCs, and other heteroatomic compounds including nitriles. This complex carbon chemistry finds applications in several fields of science:

volcano monitoring (prediction of eruptions based on earliest indicators of unrest)

origin of life (prebiotic/abiogenic complex carbon chemistry),

chemosynthesis in extremophiles (food sources based on chemosynthesis),

natural sources of greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances,

secondary inorganic and organic aerosol formation,

development and testing of carbon sequestration leakage monitoring networks.

The technology used to investigate the carbon chemistry of volcanic emissions overlaps with sampling and sensing techniques used in lab and fieldwork in atmospheric chemistry, environmental chemistry and geochemistry, ground- and space-borne remote sensing, and carbon sequestration leakage monitoring.

As part of our current focus at EOS, we have developed for the first time a comprehensive approach to assessing total volcanic carbon budget in real time on a highly active volcano, using a range of partially redundant methods. These include a variety of techniques including remote sensing of vent release of CO2 and CH4 using ground- and space-based open-path FTIR measurement, a network of autonomous ground-based real-time continuous sensor stations (based on NDIR, designed in-house), real-time autonomous monitoring in springs and wells, and campaign-based flank carbon flux mapping surveys.


Florian Schwandner is an analytical geochemist by training. He has international work experience in industry, applied monitoring networks and large campaigns, laboratory and field supervision/management, instrument development, and as a team leader. He has crossed over traditional boundaries between fields several times during his career (including geosciences, analytical chemistry, environmental science, biochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, chemical engineering, natural hazards research, internet cartography, volcanology, IT and databases, occupational health & safety, archaeometry, and history of science).

Florian studied Geology / Earth Sciences at the Freie Universität Berlin (Germany) at an undergraduate and graduate level, from 1991-1997. During that period he won a competitive scholarship to study as a Graduate Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington from 1995-1996, where he performed research on trace element partitioning under the supervision of M.S. Ghiorso and B.K. Nelson. After his return to Berlin, he graduated with a Diplom degree in 1997 (M.Sc. equivalent) under the supervision of V. Jacobshagen and V.J. Dietrich. Subsequently he joined the Geochemistry Group of Terry Seward at ETH Zürich / IMP, (Switzerland) for his doctoral work on halocarbon emissions from volcanoes, together with Volker Dietrich. This included work on live emissions by volcanoes and expanded the normally 10 to 15 quantitatively measured gas species to well over 100 by including organic compounds. Part of this work was performed at Hall Analytical Ltd., an environmental organic mass spectrometry instrument development and analytical company in Manchester (UK). He graduated with a Dr. sci. nat degree (Ph.D.) from ETH Zürich in Geochemistry and Volcanology in 2002.

Afterwards he held joint postdoctoral appointments at ETH Zürich between the European Union's GEOWARN project, the ETH Institute of Cartography (Natural Hazards group) and the Geochemistry group of Terry Seward. This was followed by a Postdoctoral Research Associate appointment in the research group of Everett Shock and the Keck Environmental Biogeochemistry Laboratory at the Department of Geological Sciences (now SESE) at Arizona State University from 2004-2006, where he worked on trace gas emission mapping and built a new analytical mass spectrometry laboratory. He joined the Atmospheric Chemistry Group of J.L. Collett at Colorado State University in early 2006, changing course away from volcano research and toward quantifying emissions, transport, gas-aerosol transformation, and deposition of atmospheric nitrogen species. He also focused on long-term multiparametric environmental monitoring strategies and methods and gained technical experience in networked, autonomous and telemetered sensing and sampling systems, in collaboration with Air Resource Specialists Inc., The U.S. National Park Service, and Shell Exploration and Production Company.

Since 2007, he has served on the steering committee and as chairman of the technical advisory group of the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) Database of Volcanic Unrest (WOVOdat), a global community effort to streamline and harmonize observational data of over 70 observatories in a common database, which is now funded and being implemented at EOS in Singapore. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow with the Volcanology Group of Chris Newhall at the new Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS, Nanyang Technological University) since Fall 2009, where he works on the design, implementation and instrumentation design of comprehensive gas monitoring networks at several Southeast Asian high-risk volcanoes.

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