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The papier-mâché volcano is a real classic, but there are many other ways to make an even more exciting and interesting science project focused on volcanoes!
To get started on your own volcano-based science project, you will want to first have an understanding of how volcanoes form. This is related to tectonic plates. The entire outer shell of the Earth, known as the lithosphere, is made up of tectonic plates that are constantly moving. There are seven or eight large tectonic plates and many more minor ones. The low parts of the plates are beneath the world's oceans, and the high parts of the plates are landmasses. New plate material is generated at deep sea ocean ridges in a process called sea-floor spreading. Material from plates is also recycled at trenches, where dense, oceanic crust dives back underneath an adjacent plate towards the upper mantle. This subduction of one plate beneath another can provide the massive force to produce uplift of mountain ranges. Overall, where tectonic plates meet and bump together, it is common to find mountains, mid-ocean ridges, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. (What forms depends on how exactly the tectonic plates are moving against each other at the plate boundary.)
The theory of plate tectonics was actually long debated, and detailed mapping studies of cooled molten rocks helped clinch the case. Rocks containing magnetic material reveal the history of when and where they formed. As the molten rocks cooled, the magnetic particles aligned themselves with the Earth's magnetic field at that time. Armed with that information, geologists have been able to map the dates of origin of the oceanic crust, and to confirm that sea-floor spreading at suboceanic ridges and subduction at trenches is a constant process. Although the mechanism for the motion of the tectonic plates is still not well understood, it is thought that convection of heat from the Earth's core is somehow involved.
In this geology science project, you will investigate an aspect of volcanoes, such as by mapping volcanic activity, predicting volcanic eruptions, or developing a realistic volcano model. Which volcanoes are active volcanoes, and just how active are they? Where are the most dangerous volcanoes located? Does volcanic activity follow a certain pattern, such as based on time or location? Does this correlate with the presence of tectonic plates? Can you develop a more dynamic and accurate volcano model based on your understanding of how volcanoes function? You could do your science project on other parts of volcano-based science, such as eruption warning systems, volcanic minerals, and volcanic gases. What are the best monitoring strategies for predicting volcanic activity and developing a useful warning system? Which types of gases come out of a volcano? To find out more about volcanic activity, how to predict volcanic eruptions, and to view data about current and historical volcanic activity, you can visit the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website listed in the Bibliography in the Background tab.
- United States Geological Survey (USGS). (2012, September 18). U.S. Volcanoes and Current Activity Alerts. U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
- Smithsonian Institution. (n.d.). Volcanoes of the World. Global Volcanism Program. Department of Mineral Sciences. National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- Oregon State University. (n.d.). Volcano World. Oregon Space Grant Consortium. Department of Geosciences. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
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