What is the temperature of lava

Volcanoes for schoolchildren

How volcanoes are observed and explored

The observation of volcanoes is the job of volcanologists. These are scientists from a wide variety of scientific fields such as chemists, physicists, mineralogists and geologists. To become a volcanologist, you have to study one of these subjects at a university. In countries where there are active volcanoes, you can also study volcanology directly.
The volcanologists' goal is to be able to predict the behavior of the volcanoes in order to warn people who live in their vicinity of an eruption.
The volcanologist collects samples of volcanic rocks, gases and water from crater lakes in order to examine them in the laboratory. He often uses a microscope for this. He creates a geological map of the volcano and tries to reconstruct its eruption history. Then he observes the activity of the volcano.
Various tools are available to volcanologists for volcano observation:


A special thermometer that can withstand extremely high temperatures (up to 1400 ° C) is used to measure the temperature of leaking lava. The measuring probe of this thermometer is made of a special metal. A normal thermometer would melt at these temperatures.

Thermal camera

Instead of a thermometer, you can also use a thermal imaging camera to measure the temperature. This has the advantage that you don't have to get so close to the hot lava. The thermal imaging camera also shows a photo or video on which you can see the temperature distribution.

Image: volcanologists at work. © Geonet


Earthquake waves are registered with a seismometer. Such vibrations occur in volcanoes when magma rises from greater depths.

Tilt meter

is a device similar to a spirit level. A tilt meter measures the slope of a volcano. If magma rises into the magma chamber, the volcano expands like a yeast toilet. Its slopes become a little steeper.


A spectrometer measures the gas composition and the concentration of the gases that flow out of a volcano. When the values ​​change, the behavior of the volcano also often changes.

Satellites and drones

For some time now, volcanoes have also been observed and measured from space by satellites. Reltaiv is new to the start with drones. These remote-controlled flying objects are relatively inexpensive and can be equipped with cameras or gas sensors. Otherwise unrealizable photos and film recordings can be made possible in this way. Such images are helpful for volcanologists to find out more about the volcano. In 2015, for example, a drone flew into the active Ambrym shield volcano in the Vanuatu archipelago in the South Pacific and filmed impressive images. Entering the volcano is life-threatening, but the drone's images enabled the researchers to create a 3D image of the crater.