Bernard Chouet
Bernard A. Chouet is a geophysicist
Geophysics is the physics of the Earth and its environment in space; also the study of the Earth using quantitative physical methods. The term geophysics sometimes refers only to the geological applications: Earth's shape; its gravitational and magnetic fields; its internal structure and...

 who specializes in volcanic seismology
Seismology is the scientific study of earthquakes and the propagation of elastic waves through the Earth or through other planet-like bodies. The field also includes studies of earthquake effects, such as tsunamis as well as diverse seismic sources such as volcanic, tectonic, oceanic,...

. He discovered that volcanic eruptions could be predicted by observing the frequency of certain seismic waves that are generated by volcanoes.


Bernard Chouet was born on October 14, 1945 in Nyon, Switzerland. In 1968 he received a diploma in electrical engineering from the Federal Institute of Technology
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne is one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology and is located in Lausanne, Switzerland.The school was founded by the Swiss Federal Government with the stated mission to:...

 in Lausanne, Switzerland. After graduation, he worked briefly at a Swiss robotics laboratory. Seeking an opportunity to do research in robotics, he subsequently worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 (MIT); specifically, at the Man-Vehicle Laboratory in the Center for Space Research, which was doing research for NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

’s Apollo program to land men on the Moon. However, when NASA’s budget was reduced, he was free to pursue other interests. As a teenager, he had become interested in volcanoes. So, after completing a master of science degree in aeronautics
Aeronautics is the science involved with the study, design, and manufacturing of airflight-capable machines, or the techniques of operating aircraft and rocketry within the atmosphere...

 and astronautics
Astronautics, and related astronautical engineering, is the theory and practice of navigation beyond the Earth's atmosphere. In other words, it is the science and technology of space flight....

 at MIT in 1972, he pursued studies in geophysics. His ambition was to use seismology to predict the behavior of volcanoes. In 1973 he received a master of science degree in earth
Earth science
Earth science is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. It is arguably a special case in planetary science, the Earth being the only known life-bearing planet. There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth sciences...

 and planetary science
Planetary science
Planetary science is the scientific study of planets , moons, and planetary systems, in particular those of the Solar System and the processes that form them. It studies objects ranging in size from micrometeoroids to gas giants, aiming to determine their composition, dynamics, formation,...

s from MIT, and in 1976 he received a Ph.D. in geophysics from MIT. From 1976 to 1983 he worked as a research associate in MIT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Since 1983 he has worked for the U.S. Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey
The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology,...

 in Menlo Park, California
Menlo Park, California
Menlo Park, California is a city at the eastern edge of San Mateo County, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the United States. It is bordered by San Francisco Bay on the north and east; East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, and Stanford to the south; Atherton, North Fair Oaks, and Redwood City...

 — first in its Office of Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Engineering, and then as a member of its Volcano Hazards Team. Bernard Chouet is married to Paula Dickson; the couple have one son.

Prediction of volcanic eruptions

Since 1977, Chouet’s colleague Keiiti Aki had been developing mathematical models of magma-filled fractures in volcanoes, in order to determine what seismic waves would be produced by such fractures. Since 1985 Chouet himself had also been developing models of such fractures. The turning point in Chouet’s research occurred in 1986, when Chouet examined the seismic records of the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz
Nevado del Ruiz
The Nevado del Ruiz, also known as La Mesa de Herveo or Kumanday in the language of the local pre-Columbian indigenous people, is a volcano located on the border of the departments of Caldas and Tolima in Colombia, about west of the capital city Bogotá. It is a stratovolcano, composed of many...

 volcano in Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

. In the seismic records, he found that so-called “B-type events” or “long-period events” had occurred with increasing frequency prior to the eruption. (“Long-period events” are the records of seismic waves that are produced by volcanic fluids surging through fissures in a volcano — a phenomenon similar to water hammer
Water hammer
Water hammer is a pressure surge or wave resulting when a fluid in motion is forced to stop or change direction suddenly . Water hammer commonly occurs when a valve is closed suddenly at an end of a pipeline system, and a pressure wave propagates in the pipe...

.) Chouet then used the occurrence of long-period events to predict the 1989 and 1990 eruptions of Mount Redoubt
Mount Redoubt
Mount Redoubt is the name of three mountains:* Mount Redoubt in Alaska, United States* Mount Redoubt in Washington, United States* Redoubt Mountain in Banff National Park, Canada...

 in Alaska and the 1993 eruption of Galeras
Galeras is an Andean stratovolcano in the Colombian department of Nariño, near the departmental capital Pasto. Its summit rises above sea level. It has erupted frequently since the Spanish conquest, with its first historical eruption being recorded on December 7, 1580...

 in Columbia. In 2000, Mexican officials used Chouet’s methods to predict the eruption of Popocatépetl
Popocatépetl also known as "Popochowa" by the local population is an active volcano and, at , the second highest peak in Mexico after the Pico de Orizaba...

 in Mexico. (For further information, see Wikipedia's entry: Prediction of volcanic activity .)
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