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Measuring volcanic interactions using real-time data on Jetstream

D. Sarah Stamps runs CHORDS on Jetstream virtual servers, enabling her research of an active volcano in Africa to continue stateside.

Research and discovery Apr 6, 2021

D. Sarah Stamps, assistant professor of geophysics at the Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences, employs Jetstream’s cloud-based supercomputing network to monitor tectonic activity of volcanoes from across the Atlantic Ocean. 

“We installed several Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) sensors as part of the TZVOLCANO network around the active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania to monitor surface motions in the horizontal and vertical directions,” explained Stamps.

Currently, three of the stations transmit positioning data every second through a remote satellite internet connection to the National Science Foundation (NSF) geodesy facility called UNAVCO.

GNSS station that streams real-time positioning data with Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in the background. Photo Credit: D. Sarah Stamps.

Stamps’ team uses an EarthCube tool called CHORDS (Cloud Hosted Real-Time Data Services for the Geosciences; Daniels et al., 2016) and a Python-based broker developed by Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences PhD student Joshua Robert Jones called GNSS2CHORDS. The team analyzes the real-time data streaming from Tanzania for significant height changes (+/- 5 cm) compared to the previous five minutes of streaming data. The real-time data can be openly accessed at

Accessible, real-time data facilitated by CHORDS using Jetstream is a critical step in a complicated data gathering process. “Analyzing real-time GNSS data streams can be tricky,” said Stamps. “We have learned through this project that some sites are noisier than others, so we are striving to develop machine learning approaches that can both characterize the noise in the data and detect anomalous movements,” she continued. Undergraduate researcher Myles Mason, a Virginia Tech Computational Modeling and Data Analytics major at Virginia Tech and member of Stamps’ research group, is developing the machine learning approaches using Python and Jupyter Notebooks. 

Efforts are also underway to address research questions concerning the movements of volcanic flanks and neighboring fault lines, as well as determining whether there is a relationship between volcanic movements and fault slip during continental extension. Virginia Tech Geosciences PhD student Ntambila Daud and undergraduate researcher Kelsey Popolizio are tackling these questions using the GNSS data through a NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grant to Stamps.

Using the CHORDS tool in Jetstream for streaming real-time positioning data has allowed my research group to manage a distant network with ease.

D. Sarah Stamps

D. Sarah Stamps, Assistant Professor of Geophysics, Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences.

Stamps says Jetstream complements Virginia Tech’s existing supercomputing resources for numerical modeling. Before Jetstream, a national science and engineering cloud-based environment, funded by the NSF Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) program, Stamps’ lab paid a monthly subscription fee for cloud hosting. Now that investment is spent facilitating research instead of usage fees.

“Dr. Stamps’ research on geologic movements, which is both data intensive and internationally sourced is a great match for Jetstream’s on-demand virtual machines,” said David Y. Hancock, Principal Investigator of Jetstream, and a director in Indiana University’s Research Technologies division of University Information Technology Services. “With a 99% uptime, Jetstream’s cloud environment aims to enhance the researcher experience of HPC [high performance computing] resources available at their home institution. We are in great company with Virginia Tech, and the team is proud to offer solutions for this project,” he said.

Using CHORDS’s virtual interface that is hosted on Jetstream and accessible via any web browser (, Stamps and her team continue to monitor volcanic activity in Tanzania while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Using the CHORDS tool in Jetstream for streaming real-time positioning data has allowed my research group to manage a distant network with ease,” she said.  

Jetstream is a cloud computing environment designed to provide Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) researchers and students user-friendly, on-demand access to interactive computing and data analysis resources. Jetstream is implemented and supported by Indiana University, Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), and several additional partner institutions across the nation.

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