Thursday, July 23, 2015

Iceland May Be gearing Up For Another Round of Eruptions

Iceland may be gearing up for another round of volcanic and tectonic events, and some of them could be spectacular. The world only recently started paying close attention to Iceland's volcanoes after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, Grimsvötn the following year, and the recent eruption of a Bárðarbunga fissure system at Halhuraun. Bárðarbunga's eruption was the largest in recent history, with a massive lava field being issued, and millions of tons of SO2 gas.

The events at Bárðarbunga were part of the heart of what Iceland is, the eruptive center of a massive magma plume, which coincidentally lies on the spreading sealfoor rift of the North American and European plates. These plates are spreading, and recent seismicity shows just how active that spreading is.

Several volcanoes are either overdue for an eruption, or showing signs of awakening. Accoring to Jon Frimann of the Iceland Geology Blog, the island of Surtsey in the Vestmanneyjar volcanic system has shown signs of increased thermal activity. This is one system to watch, as in 1973, Eldfell volcano was born on the Icelandic island of Heimaey, with no warning. The eruption devastated residential homes, and advanced to the island's only port. During this eruption, Icelanders actually fought back the lava flow using massive pumps, piping cold ocean water in vast amounts onto the lava. They saved the harbor.

But this is a volcano, and it will erupt again in the future. The Island of Surtsey was created in a spectacular and never before documented eruption type. The term 'Surtseyan' eruption was born on the day Surtsey arrived. Boiling out of the ocean floor to breach the surface in 1963, the eruption lasted until 1967, building a new Icelandic volcano island. The island remains off-limits to all but the scientific community, who are studying biodiversity on newly created islands. 

This means that the people of Heimaey are living on a still very active volcano, and it has been quite silent for some time... until now. Unlike the recently erupted volcanoes that have been in the news, Vestmanneyjar is off people's radar these days, and unlike those volcanoes, does have population centers in its immediate vicinity. Heimaey after all is a very busy trading port.

Other volcanoes are stirring as well, some in the vicinity of the recently erupted Bárðarbunga system, which seem to have been disturbed by that eruption. Some have been eerily quiet for a long time, but are starting to have small quakes.

Hekla volcano is a dangerous volcano. Not because it is close to any population centers (although close enough for gas and ash to fall in the capitol), but because it is one of those volcanoes, like many in Iceland, which tends to erupt without warning. It has been experiencing sporadic quakes, which worry volcanologists. 

Torfajokull to Hekla's East, and NNW of Katla volcano, is also experiencing some quake activity, although this may be purely tectonic. This is a caldera system, which has not erupted in many centuries, however still has very active fumeroles, hot springs, and geysers.

Katla itself is assumed to be primed for an eruption, and may have had a very minor subglacial episode following the eruption of Ejyafjallajökull. It typically displays spurts of seismic activity, however would still be difficult to predict or monitor given its size, and the glacier mounted on top. This eruption would likely dwarf those of Ejyafjallajökull and Grimsvötn. But it just hasn't popped off as of yet. This would likely be the most dangerous eruption, as it would affect air travel (again) in Europe on a larger scale, create massive glacier outburst floods (jökullhlaups), and could last for a long time.

Tungnafellsjokull, to the East of the Bárðarbunga caldera, has been experiencing very unusual and heavy quake swarms during and after Bárðarbunga's fissure eruption and caldera collapse. I have stated in the past this may be a 'toothpaste tube' like scenario, where one magma chamber has stressed the other, and created a  more dynamic situation under Tungnafellsjokull. I still believe this to be the case. It is unknown whether this means an eruption will happen, or if things are settling down, but this volcano does not have a historical eruption record (in Iceland these date back to Viking times), so it could be unlikely... but nothing is impossible.

And to the North of Bárðarbunga, Askja volcano, which is another record-holding volcano in Iceland, had a catastrophic eruption in 1875, one of Iceland's largest, has been having persistent seismicity after the fissure eruption of Bárðarbunga. One of its much older and unmonitored neighbors, Herðubreið has followed that trend as well.

All of these volcanoes are in the vicinity of the spreading rift, and it does appear that the magma plume under Iceland is getting a little restless. Time will tell, but Iceland is an ever-changing landscape of ice and fire, and it does not appear to want to lose that description any time soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hakoneyama Volcano In Japan Put On Alert [UPDATED 6-30-2015]

According to an article on The Asahi Shimbun, Hakoneyama (Hakone) Volcano in Japan has been put on alert, and visitors restricted from visiting the summit. Hakoneyama is the close neighbor to Mt. Fuji, which has according to experts been in a state of high pressure for some time now.

Hakoneyama has not erupted for some 2900 years, although the numerous hot springs, geysers, and fumeroles within the caldera point to an active magma system. Recent seismicity has given reason for the high alert status. According to the article, many shallow quakes have been recorded in the last month, with 16 quakes recorded on April 26th, and 72 from May 2-4.


Image from JMA detailing locations of quakes.


According to the article, inflation is being recorded at the volcano. While this does not point to an imminent eruption, this volcano was on the same large subduction zone that was affected by the infamous 9.0 quake of 2011, which caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a massive tsunami, and associated disasters. Quakes of that magnitude in active volcanic zones can produce some surprises.

Japan is likely more wary of volcanic unrest after Mount Ontake erupted with little warning, killing hikers and tourists, and stranding many in mountainside lodges. It was the worst volcanic disaster for Japan in recent times. The caution can and will save lives should the volcano erupt.

The Smithsonian GVP Characterizes the volcano as such:

"Hakoneyama volcano is truncated by two overlapping calderas, the largest of which is 10 x 11 km wide. The calderas were formed as a result of two major explosive eruptions about 180,000 and 49,000-60,000 years ago. Scenic Lake Ashi lies between the SW caldera wall and a half dozen post-caldera lava domes that were constructed along a SW-NE trend cutting through the center of the calderas. Dome growth occurred progressively to the south, and the largest and youngest of these, Kamiyama, forms the high point of Hakoneyama. The calderas are breached to the east by the Hayakawa canyon. A phreatic explosion about 3000 years ago was followed by collapse of the NW side of Kamiyama, damming the Hayakawa valley and creating Lake Ashi. The latest magmatic eruptive activity about 2900 years ago produced a pyroclastic flow and a lava dome in the explosion crater, although phreatic eruptions took place as recently as the 12-13th centuries CE. Seismic swarms have occurred during the 20th century. Lake Ashi, along with major thermal areas in the caldera, forms a popular resort area SW of Tokyo"

Since this is a breaking news story, and from Japan, it will be difficult to monitor the situation by normal means, but I'll keep an eye out, and should anything develop, I will update this post.

*****UPDATE 5/8/2015*****

Japan's Meteorologial Agency (JMA) raised the alert level of Hakoneyama to alert level RED. This is more than likely out of an abundance of caution, but after the eruption of Ontake, this is a prudent step. Volcanic tremor remains elevated, and steam vents are becoming more vigorous. If Hakoneyama were to erupt, it would be the first eruption in historical time.

****UPDATE 6/8/2015*****

JMA has lowered the alert level for Hakoneyama after visual observations noted a decrease in steaming from the various fumeroles and steam vents, in conjunction with a decrease in seismicity, as well as deflationary tilt. The alert level remains elevated, but no eruption now appears imminent.

*****UPDATE 6/30/2015*****
According to Reuters/Yahoo, Japan's Hakone (hakoneyama) volcano has now had a small ash-emitting eruption, after around a month or so of unrest. Japan had previously restricted access to the steam-vents area near the resort and issued an exclusion zone. The eruption was described as very small. 40 people were evacuated from the summit area. Live cams currently show vigorous steaming, suggesting that this was possibly a small phreatic (steam driven) eruption. New eruptions can happen at any time, and any new steam/hot rock interactions can cause more eruptions. Any fresh injection of magma (which is thought to have occurred) can increase this risk.

The volcano is now at Alert Level 3. A drone flight on June 20 revealed damage to facilities caused by large amounts of sulfur and gases being expelled by the volcano. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Philippines' Mt. Bulusan Erupts

Two strong phreatic (steam-based) eruptions have occurred at Mt. Bulusan in Luzon, Philippines. It's last known eruption was in 2011. According to Filipino news sources, the first eruption lasted about 10 minutes, followed about 20 minutes later by a shorter eruption. There is currently no danger of magma injection or lava flow from the volcano.

Phreatic eruptions can occur without warning at many active volcanoes, especially 'wet' ones like volcanoes that have crater lakes at their summits, glaciers, or other sources of water. What occurrs is that water seeps into the volcano, making contat with extremely hot rock. This flashes the water into steam, causing a huge pressure buildup and subsequent rock explosion.

The reason there is no further danger of a larger eruption, is that typically phreatic eruptions are not related to new magma being injected. They are only related to surface water seeping into the hot, mostly solid rocks.

PHIVOLCS is updating the situation on Twitter, so you can follow the developments there. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Northern Chilean Volcano Guallatiri Stirs

According to Volcanodiscovery.com and a few social media outlets, Volcan Guallatiri is experiencing a volcanic quake swarm, prompting SERNAGEOMIN to raise the alert level. According to the Smithsonian GVP, Guallatiri  has not had an eruption since December 2, 1960, and questionable activity was possibly observed in 1985.

So far this activity has not led to an eruption, but as is the case with many Ring of Fire volcanoes, that can change at any moment, and in Chile's case, with or without warning. Chile has seen a string of previously dormant, or long dormant volcanoes activate without warning. The 2008 eruption of Chaiten gave little to no warning. Calbuco volcano was also quiet up until it exploded.

The reason for this is the nature of the lava. Many of Chile's volcanoes are rhyolotic or andesitic, which make for a dense magma with tons of dissolved gases stuck inside waiting to burst, so these stratovolcanoes are particularly nasty when they choose to erupt.

If the volcano does erupt, I will update this post.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Mt Shindake volcano on Kuchinoerabu Erupts

Hot on the heels of the eruption of Mt Ontake, Japan has had another eruption from one of its many active volcanoes. Mt Shindake volcano on Kuchinoerabu island erupted just hours ago, sending ash high into the sky and forcing evacuations. Unlike the previous eruption, nobody is thought to have been injured, and the island itself is not highly populated.

Shindake is a highly active volcano, having just erupted last year.

Japan has frequent eruptions from many of its hundreds of volcanoes. Japan and its outlying islands lay across the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes that spans the Pacific tectonic plate, including Alaska and the West Coast of the US, down to the West Coast of South America. Japan's volcanoes, much like the ones that line the West Coast, and Alaska/Aleutian Islands, are composed of stratovolcanoes, which form due to subducting tectonic plates. Land dives under land, recycling sediments, and water into explosive magma, creating some of the most explosive volcanoes on earth.

Japan currently has several volcanoes either erupting or on high alert, or which have recently erupted. Sakura-jima (Aira), Nishinoshima (which started as an offshore eruption which later grew into a separate island, only to engulf its 'parent' and create a much larger land body), Ontake, and more have all erupted within the past year. Sakura-jima, Japan's most active in recent times, has frequent large explosions.

It is not known yet how long this current eruption will last, but it sounds like from the reports that it was a single explosion, and activity is not currently happening. This can change at any moment, so it is likely that the volcano will be heavily monitored in the next month or so.

I will update this post if anything further happens.

Panic Caused Over Supposed Imminent Earthquake In CA By Blogger Dutchsinse

One of the very reasons I began my blog was to bring you no-nonsense news on geological and volcanic events, sourced with good references and links, and an attention to detail. The catalyst for this was a conversation over email I had with a blogger I do admire, Jon Frimann who writes the Iceland Geology Blog which frequently is the prime source for volcano and earthquake news in Iceland. I wanted to help him out with editing and English, however this offer was declined.

I had become fascinated with volcanoes at an early age, and frequented his blog, especially during the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. At first, this interaction puzzled me... "Why wouldn't a blogger like to hire an editor for free? Wouldn't it lend more credibility to an English reading audience"? But perhaps my request to help out came off as a bit rude. I mean, the guy invests his own money and time deploying geophones/sensors all over Iceland to really monitor volcanoes. He speaks a few languages, and if I were him I'd be proud of that and take offense to my offer too. But I was just starting out.

So I say to myself, maybe I'll just start my own blog, and simply aggregate links to reliable sources, while injecting a bit of background based on my quick research. But keep speculation to a bare minimum, and always edit your reports when new info is available.

And then I ran into "Dutchsinse" (Google him if you will, I refuse to link to and/or promote his garbage). Dutchsinse is... who? Well, for one, he is a blogger who hides behind a monkier/screenname, posts outlandish articles claiming a volcano in LA, California blew up (it didn't), that a mssive volcanic eruption had occurred in Nevada (it didn't), that the whole West Coast of the US moved because of an eruption at the Axial Seamount volcano (it didn't), and now, people are unfortunately cross linking and spreading this garbage throughout the 'net. His blogs are so obviously hype and science fiction I cannot honestly believe anyone would take him seriously... but the Internet is a blessing and a curse... information is highly available, yet entirely suspect at times. And there are predators. 

People on social media such as Facebook or Twitter are especially vulnerable to this type of click-bait yellow journalism. We are living in an age (at least in the US) where people actually believe in the "end times", and people like Dutchsinse prey on this. What really made me want to have a volcanic eruption of my own was when I saw my beloved news stream "I F*cking Love Science" post a link to one of their articles, I was appalled to see that they had posted a video of the eruption of Wolf Volcano in the Galapagos that directly linked to Dutchsinse's Youtube account. 

I happen to have a great deal of love for IFLS. They typically do great reporting, but this time they made a serious boo-boo by actually giving credence to someone who is so absurdly wrong that it spurred a guy like me to start writing his very own volcano blog out of the goodness of his heart, and a desire not to see everyone duped and sent into panic by a charlatan and bad reporter. Dutchsinse's modus operandi is to link real-time earthquake data, and not just speculate, attempt to predict eruptions, and spread false info.

This is ALL to generate ad revenue through Google, and nothing more.

Now, I learned firsthand how gullible people are, when one April Fools Day, I posted an article that read "BREAKING: Yellowstone Moved to Highest Alert (Red) After Tremor, Wildlife Fleeing". It was meant as a HUGE joke (even at the end of the blog, I completely self-destruct and say April Fools), however it is one of the biggest revenue generator blog posts I've ever posted. Part of me is ashamed, and the other part is laughing all the way to the bank. Dutchsinse has no shame. He's in it for the money, and he really IS lauging all the way to the bank.

At the top bar of my blog, I list MANY credible sources, and other blogs that are tried and true. So don't fall for click bait. And please, for the love of all things science-y, do not reference Dutchsinse.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Galapagos Wolf Volcano Erupts For First Time In 33 Years

The volcanoes of Galapagos have been quiet for a while but that quiet has been ended by a spectacular eruption of Galapagos' Wolf Island Volcano. From images it appears a flank fissure has opened up outside the caldera, issuing fluid pahoeoe lava flows (much in the same style of Hawaiian volcanoes). According to VolcanoDiscovery.com, no wildlife, especially the famed pink iguanas, are threatened by the flowing lava.


Google Earth screenshot showing Wolf Volcano in the Galapagos.


Image taken from boat of Wolf volcano on May 25, 2015

Lava fountains issuing from the fissure are visible in most images. The Smithsonian GVP reports on Wolf volcano:

"According to IG the seismic station located on Fernandina Island recorded several events at Wolf (on Isabela Island) starting at 2350 on 24 May. The most significant signal occurred at 0058 on 25 May, corresponding to an explosion and the start of an eruption. At 0215 the Washington VAAC detected an ash plume that rose to an altitude of 10.7 km (35,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 65 km SW. At 0345 one ash plume drifted 250 km ENE at an altitude of 15.2 km (50,000 ft) a.s.l., and another drifted 250 km S at an altitude of 13.7 km (45,000 ft) a.s.l. Starting at 0428 the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) reported intense thermal anomalies on Wolf's SE flank based on MODIS satellite data. Galapagos National Park staff reported an arcuate fissure along the upper SSE rim and several lava flows descending the flanks. Later that day the VAAC noted a smaller ash emission that drifted 150 km SW, and a bright thermal anomaly that had persisted. Satellites detecting sulfur dioxide showed that the cloud was sulfur-dioxide rich and ash poor; ~100-200 kt of sulfur dioxide had been emitted during the first 13 hours of the eruption."

They further characterize it here:

"Wolf, the highest volcano of the Galápagos Islands, straddles the equator at the north end of the archipelago's largest island, Isabela. The 1710-m-high edifice has steeper slopes than most other Isabela volcanoes, reaching angles up to 35 degrees. A 6 x 7 km caldera, at 700 m one of the deepest of the Galápagos Islands, is located at the summit. A prominent bench on the west side of the caldera rises 450 above the caldera floor, much of which is covered by a lava flow erupted in 1982. Radial fissures concentrated along diffuse rift zones extend down the north, NW, and SE flanks, and submarine vents lie beyond the north and NW fissures. Similar unvegetated flows originating from a circumferential chain of spatter and scoria cones on the eastern caldera rim drape the forested flanks to the sea. The proportion of aa lava flows at Volcán Wolf exceeds that of other Galápagos volcanoes. An eruption in in 1797 was the first documented historical eruption in the Galápagos Islands."


It is likely the eruption will continue for some time. If anything major changes, I will update this post. Until then, enjoy the various photos that are sure to emerge! The eruption is a beautiful example of a Galapagos volcanic episode!