Yves MoussallamExplore remote volcanoes affecting Earth’s climate

Published in 2019icon-clockTime to read: 1min 42s

Volcanologist Yves Moussallam is boldly venturing into one of the Earth’s most remote and perilous realms, the Pacific Ring of Fire, to try to answer an urgent question that could affect the future of humanity. Moussallam and his crew are conducting a series of expeditions across the Pacific Ring of Fire. The first one used a Polynesian vaka (traditional sailing vessel) to explore and study for the first time active volcanoes and seamounts along one of the world’s most volcanically dynamic region, Melanesia.


The Frenchman plans to shed light on a great scientific unknown – how the gases and aerosols emitted by the Earth’s 150-plus active volcanoes affect its climate. By covering the largely unstudied Ring of Fire, his voyages are helping to fill a large gap in the science of volcanic gas emissions and their potential role in concealing the rate of global warming. Indeed, volcanic aerosols, by reflecting solar radiations and providing seeds to the formation of clouds, are contributing to cooling our planet’s climate, but this process is still largely unquantified, and it is variable over time.

In a unique blend of ancient Pacific sea wisdom and the latest science and technology, his first expedition created the world-first sustainable mobile volcanic laboratory. With this, he investigated unexplored volcanoes along the western Ring of Fire, which harbours three quarters of the Earth’s active fire mountains.

“Volcanoes have shaped our planet and its atmosphere over eons. Collecting real-time data on volcanic activity in the most remote places on Earth is key to a true understanding of their role in accelerating or masking climate change,” says Moussallam.

I’m measuring volcanic gases to understand better the effect of volcanic emissions on our atmosphere.

Yves Moussallam

Satellite data indicates that a third of all the world’s volcanic gases originate from Melanesian volcanoes, but until now most sampling has taken place at accessible volcanoes in developed countries.

“We aim to go to places that have never been measured before, to volcanoes that are very remote, but which we know from satellites are very big gas and aerosol emitters,” adds Moussallam.

The team used the Polynesian sailing vessel, powered by the wind and coconut biofuel, while deploying drones fitted with the latest scientific sensors, to analyse emissions from the active volcanoes of Vanuatu and is now planning future expedition along the Ring of Fire.

Moussallam has previously led a five-month expedition to measure gases emitted by 20 high altitude volcanoes along the entire South American section of the Ring of Fire. As he cruises the Pacific Ocean, he will draw on his crewmates’ deep knowledge and contacts with islanders to understand patterns of volcanic activity. In return, the team hopes to supply the islanders with data to improve understanding of the most active volcanoes in order to better forecast future volcanic eruptions.

The team plans to share its adventures and discoveries with the world, and raise awareness that, through science, the exploration of our world is still ongoing every day.

He says he is driven by an urge both to discover and to help solve the great challenges of our time: “We’ve overcome a lot of challenges before. We will overcome new ones as they come. We don’t really have a choice. We have to.”

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    of all the world’s volcanic gases originate from Melanesian volcanoes, according to satellite data

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