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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Volcano Observatory is getting $12 million in additional federal funding to update equipment and hire more staff.

The budget increase will replace the aging and outdated equipment used by the observatory, which is a joint program of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the state Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, KTVA-TV reported Thursday.

The observatory monitors 33 of the 52 historically active volcanoes in the state, but nearly half of its networks are either impaired or inoperable because of past funding cuts. The observatory often uses analog equipment to collect data, which can make it more difficult to gather accurate information for predicting volcanic activity.

“Basically, this is taking us a very big step out of the 1970s and into the modern era,” said Jeff Freymueller, coordinating scientist for the observatory. “The analog equipment that we were using would be fully recognizable to an early 1970s field seismologist.”

The observatory plans to acquire digital equipment that can collect more data variety on the movement of the ground, which helps seismologists differentiate between false alarms and actual volcanic signals.

“It is a little bit like trading in your ratty old pair of glasses, where you can’t see very well, for a new pair that you can use to see more clearly,” Freymueller said. “That doesn’t solve all your problems, but it does make everything easier.”


Information from: KTVA-TV,