From: Remy Melina, Live Science
Published October 26, 2010 09:40 AM

How Do Scientists Know a Volcano Is About to Erupt?

Mount Merapi in Indonesia is expected to erupt at any moment, and Indonesian government officials have begun to evacuate the people living in villages near the volcano. The volatile mountain's last eruption was in 2006, and two people were killed when a plume of scorching gas, rocks and volcanic ash spewed down its slopes, according to the NASA Earth Observatory.

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Officials from the island of Java, where Mount Merapi is located, told news sources they predict lava to spill over the southern side of the mountain. Volcanic earthquakes, an increase in seismic activity and swelling of the ground around the volcano have caused Indonesian officials to raise the alert on Merapi to level three, with four being the maximum alert level.

What are the signs that a volcano is about to erupt?

While volcanoes may give off several warning signs they are about to blow, some are taken more seriously by vulcanologist, who alert and advise government officials regarding when evacuations need to take place.

"These signs may include very small earthquakes beneath the volcano, slight inflation, or swelling, of the volcano and increased emission of heat and gas from vents on the volcano," said U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Volcano Hazards Program coordinator John Eichelberger.

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