An international team of researchers decided to examine possible further applications of atomic clocks. The conclusion is extremely interesting; based on the theory of general relativity of Einstein, terrestrial atomic clocks could be used to monitor and predict volcanic eruptions.
According to the general theory of relativity, clocks located far from the Earth tick differently. The closer is a clock to an object, the slower it ticks. Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Germany and the University of Mississippi in the United States have shown that this deceleration of time provided from the general theory of relativity, can be measured via different clocks and monitor volcanic activity. Lava that enters the vault of a volcano will make a clock that is up to this volcano to tick slower than a clock that is farther away.
The monitoring of volcanoes and the prognosis of eruptions has significantly improved our days, but is still far from ideal. Volcanoes are currently monitored using satellites, but the resulting data need a lot of work; often, the integration of data of several previous years is required in order to calculate the volume of the new magma accumulated in a volcano. The research team says that a network of atomic clocks can give the same information within a few hours to volcanologists by offering them the opportunity to watch closely the processes taking place within the volcanoes and make better predictions.
Another application proposed by the researchers regarding the atomic clocks is monitoring the Earth tides. The continents rise and sink constantly, and in some cases the ground rises up to 50 cm. Scientists point out that a network of atomic clocks connected via optical fibers that are used for the Internet could measure on a permanent basis the Earth tides. This would provide more information regarding the gravitational force.