Scientists at the University of Buffalo in New York have used explosive charges roughly as powerful as a grenade under mounds of crushed gravel, limestone and asphalt to send geyser-like showers of material 50 feet into the air.
Because volcanic eruptions are naturally occurring, each with their own distinct features, it isn't possible to exactly replicate one, Buffalo geologist Greg Valentine said.
But the tests are an accurate barometer to base conclusions on because researchers can control the strength of the blast, Valentine, director of the university's Center for Geohazards Studies, said.
The idea, he said, was not to determine how or when eruptions will occur but rather to figure out what happens during and after an eruption.
Valentine will spend the next few months analyzing results of the experiments, but said he is happy with the results.
"I've learned more today, without analyzing this entirely, as I would if I spent an entire year reading technical papers."