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For the first time in French Voices, I’m interviewing a guest from La Réunion! Réunion Island is a tropical French department (un département d’Outre-Mer = overseas region) located in the Indian Ocean. It is known for its beautiful landscapes, with volcanoes, rainforest, coral reefs and beaches.
Guest Aline Peltier is a volcanologist (=volcanologue) working at the Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise. Aline specialises in geodesy, the science of measuring and understanding the earth’s geometric shape. What does that mean, in the context of volcanoes? It means that by using very precise sensors (= capteurs) and GPS devices, the volcanologist is able to notice the distortion, the swelling of the earth –indicators that magma and gas are gathering under the volcano and that an eruption may be imminent. This data is very important to ensure the safety of the population and decide on a potential evacuation of the area.
What are volcanoes? Why are there even volcanoes? You’ll find that there’s a surprisingly high number of them on the planet, usually located along the tectonic plates although that is not the case at La Réunion. Le Piton de la Fournaise, an icon of the island, is an active volcano with about 2 to 3 eruptions a year and it is well monitored, which makes it a great volcano for study according to Aline.
Listen to understand what makes some volcanoes more dangerous than others, what magma is made of or when we can consider that a volcano is extinct.
Of course, as a teacher passionate about etymology, I also got interested in the meaning of the name “Piton de la Fournaise” (you’ll get to learn a bit of Creole there!)
Aline Peltier will also share with us how she first become interested in volcanoes and what the work at l’Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise consists of. It is very varied, with some analysis and research work, communication and education of the public but also the impressive and dangerous task of getting as close as possible to a 1200°C lava flow (= une coulée de lave) to collect samples.
We’ll end the discussion talking about the geology of the island…and why La Réunion is actually growing!
anomalie (nf) = anomaly, irregularity
avant-coureur = precursory
avorter = to abort, to stop
barrière de corail (nf) = coral reef
capteur (nm) = sensor
cendre (nf) = ash
colonie de vacances (nf) = summer camp
coulée (nf) = slide, lava flow ; run, track
croûte (nf) = crust (Earth)
déformation (nf) = deformation, distortion
doctorat (nm) = PhD, doctorate
évent (nm) = vent, outlet
féérique (adj) = magical, enchanting; otherworldly
fusion (en fusion) (nf) = molten
gaz (nm) = gas
géodésie (nf) = geodesy
ignifugé,e (adj) = fire resistant, fire retardant
manteau (nm) = mantle (Earth)
menace (nf) = threat
métropole (nf) = mainland France
outil (nm) = tool
plaque tectonique (nf) = tectonic plate
visqueux (adj) = slimy; viscous
volcan (nm) = volcano
volcanologue (n) = volcanologist
- Which 3 tools are used by Aline to analyse data and predict eruptions?
- How dangerous are the eruptions of Le Piton de la Fournaise?
- What’s the difference between magma and lava?
- GPS/sensors -> to analyse the swelling/distortion of the volcano
inclinometers -> to analyse the angle of inclination (of the slopes of the volcano)
extensometers -> to analyse the cracks / the openings on the earth
- Not very dangerous: they’re usually not threatening the population. The eruptions are effusive, not explosive
- They refer to the same fluid/material. It is called magma when the molten rocks are still inside the earth’s mantle and it’s called lava once it’s out of the volcano.
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