SINGAPORE - Singapore will have a new sensor system on the island by the year end to get first-hand information about nearby volcanic eruptions.
It will enable the authorities to determine more quickly if and how the eruptions would affect Singapore - for example, if volcanic ash thrown up would reach the country.
The system will be installed by Nanyang Technological University's Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), which conducts fundamental research on volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and climate change in and around South-east Asia.
The sensors pick up low-frequency sounds or "infrasounds", including those emitted by the eruptions. These sounds, which cannot be heard by people, can travel thousands of kilometres and have a distinctive signature that is different from, say, infrasounds generated by airplanes.
Currently, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) receives advisories from Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres, such as the nearest one in Darwin, Australia.
There are nine of these around the world, including in Buenos Aires, Tokyo and London. They were set up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, part of the United Nations.
The MSS also uses satellite images to track ash plumes, but images can be obscured by clouds or reflections from sunlight.